Kratom, a plant-based herb derivative, is making the rounds as a legal recreational drug. From a tree in the coffee family indigenous to Southeast Asia, kratom (Mytragyna speciosa) leaves contain an opiate substitute and stimulant. It is entirely organic and can be bought on the shelves of tobacco shops and on the Internet fairly easily here in the United States. Kratom is sold in dry form, and crushed up to be smoked or added to tea; it is also available in gel caps.
What Is Kratom?
Kratom is a stimulant and contains alkaloids, some of which are in the same category as opiates.
The most active of these alkaloids seems to be mitragynine which binds to the mu-opioid receptor in the brain, causing a pleasant and stimulated feeling.
This does not affect cognition or motor skills, according Fox News. Mitragynine also binds with serotonin receptors, making it work as an antidepressant. Different dosage levels produce different results; however, kratom does not appear to create violent tendencies.
Kratom is not a controlled substance and therefore not federally illegal in America, although the DEA does consider it a “drug of concern.” It can be bought over the counter in stores and on the Internet in the form of whole or crushed leaves, gel caps, powder, extract or teas. In Thailand, where much of the world’s kratom is produced, it is considered illegal and the third most commonly used illegal drug there, as reported by NBC News, behind only meth and marijuana. It is also illegal in Malaysia, Australia and Myanmar as well as being banned in the state of Indiana. Some of the street names of kratom include:
- Lucky kratom
Kratom has psychoactive properties that mimic opiates, causing bursts of energy and alertness as well as euphoria in low doses, and it works as a sedative in higher doses. While kratom has no actual medicinal purposes, it has been thought to work as a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory agent as well as to help opiate addicts wean off the drugs slowly.
Kratom was originally used by field workers in countries like Thailand. Laborers chewed the leaves of the tree in order to be more productive and to make it easier to get through the workday.
Kratom is largely unstudied in the United States. While it is not a new drug, it is becoming more popular as people seek what they consider to be safe highs and easily accessible legal herbs that are relatively inexpensive and can still make them feel good at least temporarily. Kratom is gaining popularity in the wake of the bath salts craze. Unlike bath salts, which contain many dangerous chemicals, kratom is organic and a natural substance, and this tends to lead users to believe it to be harmless.
The DEA states that kratom has long been used as a type of alternative medicine to help alleviate pain, cure diarrhea and reduce fatigue, and it usually does not impair motor functions like other drugs can.
Depending on dosage, some users find that kratom can be very pleasurable. Kratom does carry some of the same side effects as opiates, however, such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle aches
- Dry mouth
- Runny nose
According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, regular kratom users chew one to three leaves three to 10 times a day. The effects start within five to 10 minutes of ingesting it and last between two and five hours. Regular users have been reported to become addicted and crave the feelings associated with the drug.
Like with any drug abuse, kratom can cause a tolerance buildup and withdrawal symptoms after prolonged use. While no deaths have been confirmed due to solely kratom, people have been hospitalized for withdrawal and overdose symptoms, including shaking, nausea, hallucinations, chills, weakness, muscle pain, depression and anxiety.
Combining Kratom with Other Drugs
Another danger of kratom abuse is the tendency to want to magnify its effects by mixing it with other drugs. This is called poly-drug abuse.
In Thailand and especially among Muslim teenagers, a popular way to ingest kratom is in a narcotic drink called 4×100. This cocktail combines kratom with cough syrup (usually codeine-based) and caffeine. Closer to home, teenagers are on the Internet discussing the pros and cons of mixing kratom with drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. In various forms of poly-drug abuse, users are smoking kratom with other drugs, mixing it with alcohol, and taking multiple drugs simultaneously. Users report higher highs and more euphoric sensations as well as more hallucinations and out-of-body feelings.
Mixing kratom with other drugs can be highly dangerous. The effects of kratom are not fully understood and adding this to a drug with well-known negative side effects could be disastrous.
Just like medication prescribed by a doctor comes with a warning label saying not to mix the medication with other medications or alcohol due to nasty side effects, people should also be very careful mixing these drugs. While many don’t see poly-drug abuse as a big deal, it can have devastating effects.
Kratom comes from Southeast Asia and is mostly unregulated, so it can be difficult, if not impossible, to even know if it is pure or to know what exactly you are getting.
Addiction Treatment that Works
While the recreational use of kratom is legal in the United States, its abuse can still lead to addiction and long-term problems. Especially when coupled with other drugs, kratom abuse needs to be addressed. What starts out as a seemingly harmless tea bought at a tobacco shop, and sipped here and there for a quick fix, can quickly escalate to a craving for more and bigger highs.
No matter the severity of the addiction, our highly trained staff at The Oaks at La Paloma can help. Our professionals will set up an individualized treatment plan that will identify emotional triggers as well as address the physical addiction. Emotional health, physical well-being, and a healthy lifestyle are vital to recovery. Whether you are abusing kratom on its own or engaging in poly-drug abuse, we can help. Call today to learn what path of individualized treatment is right for you.