Last Updated: October 24, 2022
Kratom is a drug derived from the Mitragyna speciosa tree. It is commonly marketed in tablet or powder form as a dietary supplement. The drug is often abused as a psychotropic that can have either sedative or stimulant effects, depending on the dose you take.
What Is Kratom Used For?
Kratom can cause stimulant-like effects when used in low doses. Stimulants rev up the central nervous system and boost energy. With higher doses, however, kratom can have effects similar to opioid substances, causing sedation, euphoria and a possible dreamlike state.
Some people will take kratom to self-medicate for a variety of conditions, including pain, depression, sleep problems and opioid withdrawal.
Kratom for Pain
Pain relief is the most common reason that people take kratom. Mitragynine, one of the main active components of kratom, is believed to have pain-relieving effects. Although it is not an opioid drug, mitragynine works on the same mu opioid receptors in the brain as opioids.
A study of daily, long-term kratom users found that pain would significantly improve among participants one hour after kratom intake. Additionally, 20 hours after the dose of kratom, none of the participants reported any negative side effects or withdrawal symptoms. However, other studies indicate that kratom can cause withdrawal in many people.
Kratom for Depression
Many people take kratom to help improve their mood. Although no studies have been conducted on how well kratom works for depression, kratom user surveys have shown that people perceive an improvement in their depression when they take kratom.
Scientists believe that kratom has the potential to help with depression based on its biological traits. Mitragynine releases serotonin in the brain, similar to antidepressants. In addition, studies in animals have shown that kratom has effects that are similar to antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) and amitriptyline.
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Kratom for Sleep
Although some people take kratom for sleep, the drug is more often linked to insomnia. However, using kratom for depression may indirectly benefit sleep. People with depression commonly struggle with sleep, and prescription antidepressants often interrupt REM sleep. In contrast, kratom does not seem to interfere with REM sleep. Further, stopping kratom use does not appear to negatively impact sleep or cause insomnia.
Kratom for Opioid Withdrawal
Kratom is a common home remedy for opioid withdrawal symptoms. Because kratom affects the same receptors in the brain as opioids, many people take kratom in an attempt to wean themselves off opioids like heroin and minimize the risk of withdrawal. Some people keep taking kratom over the long term to try to reduce their risk of relapse. However, kratom addiction is possible, so some believe this only trades one addiction for another.
How Is Kratom Taken?
Kratom is usually ingested orally, though it is sometimes labeled as “not for human consumption.” The drug is sold in smoke shops, bars and gas stations as capsules, tablets, raw leaves, gum and powder. Sometimes, it is sold as mitragyna or street names like ketum, thom, biak or thang.
When sold as dried leaves, kratom is usually ingested by making a tea out of the substance or mixing it with water or a sweetened beverage.
Is Kratom Illegal?
Kratom is not illegal in the United States and is not a controlled substance. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration has listed kratom as a “drug and chemical of concern.” Further, the drug is banned in 15 countries and six states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
Kratom is not an FDA-improved medication. In fact, the FDA has warned against using kratom due to safety concerns like liver problems.
Common side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Increased urination
- Fast heartbeat
- Appetite loss
More serious side effects include:
- Weight loss
- Liver toxicity
In rare cases, serious kratom effects can be fatal. The FDA has investigated more than 44 deaths linked to kratom, with one death being caused by kratom alone and the others in combination with other substances.
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How Long Does Kratom Take To Kick In?
A kratom high usually takes effect within five to 10 minutes after taking the substance, and this euphoric sensation can last from two to five hours. However, the duration of kratom’s effects varies depending on how big a dose you have taken, with larger doses lasting longer than smaller ones.
Two of the main active components of kratom are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. The half-lives of these chemicals are about three hours, meaning that it takes the body this amount of time to eliminate half of the drug from its system. The effects of these substances can still be felt after this period, but the sensation will begin to decrease after about three hours.
However, it should be noted that in people who take kratom on a chronic basis, the half-life is about one day. Therefore, it may take longer for the drug’s effects to wear off in people who use it over the long term.
Kratom Addiction and Abuse
Kratom dependence and addiction are still not well understood, but someone who is addicted to kratom may show signs such as:
- Decreased performance at school or work
- Frequent use of kratom
- Avoidance of family and friends
- Frequently associating with people who use kratom
- Increased desire and effort to obtain more kratom, often at the expense of other obligations
- Being secretive or defensive about kratom use
- Inability to feel normal without kratom
Kratom Addiction Treatment
Continuing kratom can have serious health risks, but quitting the drug on your own can be hard. Choosing an inpatient rehab treatment center that includes medically supervised detox and ongoing care can be beneficial for recovery.
If you or someone you love is struggling with kratom abuse and addiction, help is available at The Recovery Village Columbus. Contact us today to learn more about kratom addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.