Kratom might be addictive, but not enough is known about the drug for medical experts to be certain of how addictive it is.
Kratom is a species of a tropical tree that grows in Southeast Asia. The leaves of kratom plants contain the psychoactive substances mitragynine (MG) and 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-HMG), which produce the main psychoactive effects.
Both MG and 7-HMG act in similar ways to opioid medications. Opioids include heroin and prescription painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl. Since the psychoactive ingredients in kratom activate the same cellular targets as opioids, there is a high probability that kratom is addictive.
Drugs that activate opioid receptors reduce the sensation of pain and can produce feelings of well-being and euphoria. Opioid receptors can also reinforce kratom addiction.
How is Kratom Taken?
Kratom can be ingested by making the leaves into a tea, chewing the leaves, smoking the leaves or taking it as a pill. Packets of kratom powder or teas are sold on the internet with the labels, “Not for human consumption.”
While the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently tried to classify kratom a Schedule I medication, several groups in support of the plant spoke up to espouse its medicinal benefits. A Schedule I classification would put the drug in the same class as heroin or LSD.
How Addictive is Kratom?
How addictive is kratom? Misuse of kratom can lead to addiction, but more often it is used to treat withdrawal symptoms from other opioids. MG and 7-HMG bind (and activate) opioid receptors, but they do not bind as strongly as other opioids like heroin or fentanyl.
When a drug can weakly activate opioid receptors, it is useful for treating symptoms of dependence and withdrawal. This concept is the same as using methadone or buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder (OUD).
The medical community has started publishing more and more case reports of people addicted to kratom, but the addiction potential is not as high as some other drugs. However, addiction to kratom must be treated the same way as any opioid addiction is treated and sometimes will need inpatient rehab treatment.
What is Kratom Dependence?
What is kratom dependence? Dependence is when you need to continue using a drug to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Kratom withdrawal is probably similar to mild opioid withdrawal. Some mild opioid withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
A kratom dependency will not develop immediately and one takes weeks or months to develop, depending on the level of kratom misuse.
How Do You Treat Kratom Addiction?
How do you treat kratom addiction? Kratom addiction should be treated with outpatient or inpatient drug rehab.
Outpatient treatment is less restrictive and an option for someone with a mild-to-moderate kratom addiction. Stopping kratom use might produce withdrawal symptoms, but it does not interfere with social or professional obligations.
Inpatient drug rehab is reserved for severe cases of addiction, cases where drug use interferes with friendships, relationships and obligations.
An addiction specialist may also choose to treat Kratom addiction with medication-assisted therapy (MAT). Buprenorphine has been successfully used for some cases of Kratom addiction.
Do you or a loved one use kratom and are worried about addiction? Call The Recovery Village Columbus to speak with a representative about how addiction treatment could help you live a healthier life.
Boyer, Edward; et al. “Self-Treatment of Opioid Withdrawal Using Kratom (Mitragynia Speciosa Korth).” Addiction, 2008. Accessed June 10, 2019.
Galbis-Reig, David. “A Case Report of Kratom Addiction and Withdrawal.” Official Publication of the State Medical Society of Wisconsin, 2016. Accessed June 10, 2019.
MedlinePlus. “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” 2016. Accessed June 10, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Kratom.” 2018. Accessed June 10, 2019.
Suhaimi, Farah; et al. “Neurobiology of Kratom and Its Main Alkaloid Mitragynine.” Brain Research Bulletin, 2016. Accessed June 10, 2019.