Kratom is a drug that is fairly new to many people, as it’s not illicit and only popular in somewhat underground circles. It’s made from the leaves of a tree native to Southeast Asia and can be found in leaf and powder form. Many people claim it can be used to help ease the side-effects of opioid withdrawal, although there is no science backing this claim and it is yet to be found effective.
While not illegal, Kratom is a drug that has hit the streets and has become increasingly popular over the past decade. Some research has reported that it can become addictive when used often. The effects of Kratom vary with dosage, which is why this drug is unpredictable. A stimulant effect is what is considered an “upper”, causing rapid bursts of energy, elevated heart rate, and restlessness. Alternately, opioid effects can cause a person to become more lethargic, slow moving, yet very content and euphoric.
Why Kratom Is Not a Safe Option to Treat Opioid Use Disorder
Many people claim Kratom can be used to help ease the side-effects of opioid withdrawal, but there is no science backing this claim and it is yet to be found effective. Because of this, health professionals do not use Kratom to treat opioid addiction. Instead, they use medications that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves as safe to treat the withdrawal symptoms of opioid use disorders. At MedMark, we do not offer Kratom to patients due to the dangerous effects it can have on the body.
Poison control centers have reported an increase in calls due to Kratom misuse. Many of the effects of Kratom are not yet widely known, which makes this drug potentially dangerous. Kratom can cause addiction and withdrawal symptoms that are just as harmful as those from opioid use.
While overdose is rare, it can become more dangerous when combined with alcohol or other drugs. Despite its “legal” status, there are still potential dangers of Kratom that need to be addressed in regards to long-term use.
Effects of Kratom
Kratom is a substance that has varying effects on people based mostly on dosage amounts. Usually when ingested, the effect happens within ten minutes and lasts about 90 minutes.. People report small doses giving the effect of alertness and sociability while bigger doses have an opposite effect, causing people to feel slow and heavy.
Using Kratom regularly can have many long-term effects that can be unpleasant and potentially life-threatening. In 2019, the National Poison Data System reported 11 deaths between 2011 and 2017 that involved Kratom exposure.
Loss of Appetite
Taking Kratom regularly can cause significant weight-loss and even lead to eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa. With highly restricted calorie intake, the body can experience severe and dangerous weight loss that can negatively affect internal organs. Anorexia can potentially lead to death due to starvation and organ failure and needs medical attention to rehabilitate.
With frequent and prolonged Kratom use, the bowel and digestive system can begin to slow down. While this isn’t a serious condition, it can become highly uncomfortable to have infrequent bowel movements that are difficult to pass. In serious cases, this could cause colon issues or even ruptures if measures aren’t taken to alleviate the situation.
The body can have an inflammatory response to Kratom with flushing of the skin in the cheek or facial region making it appear reddish purple. There have also been bouts of nausea, sweating and frequent itching reported. These effects typically occur upon ingestion of the substance and can sometimes last for hours, causing major discomfort. Some people will experience such irritation that it can lead to insomnia or disturbed sleep.
Liver and Kidney Damage
When used for a long time in high doses, the liver and kidney will become significantly damaged. Instances of very dark urine and yellowing of skin is a sign this kind of damage is taking place. When the liver is compromised, the kidneys take on the task of filtering toxins from the body. They can become overworked, which can lead to kidney failure among people with liver damage.
Mixing Kratom with other drugs can cause potentially hazardous side-effects. Mixing this drug with psychoactive substances creates a negative drug interaction that can lead to potential seizures. When taken with opioids, each drug may intensify the effects of the other, causing a potentially life-threatening overdose. Between 2010 and 2018, the number of calls to US poison control centers has skyrocketed and some overdose deaths have even been reported.
People who already have a high tolerance for opioids who take Kratom run the risk of overdose because they are not able to dose Kratom properly. Due to its leaf nature, those who buy powdered Kratom have no way of verifying whether the substance has been laced with other drugs to exaggerate effects.
Just like all drugs, people can become addicted to the effects of Kratom. This is probably the most dangerous long-term effect of this drug, as a physical dependence can occur with time. As with all dependence, people who stop using Kratom will experience uncomfortable withdrawals that include aches, pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, aggression, insomnia and other symptoms. Tremors, delusions and other more serious issues have also been reported.
Treatment for Kratom Misuse or Addiction
Many illegitimate claims are being made on the internet from websites selling Kratom that it can be used as a means to decrease opioid dependency during detox. None of these claims are substantiated by science, which means that Kratom is a dangerous and potentially harmful substance. In fact, people who started using Kratom to help their opioid addiction only found themselves becoming addicted to Kratom. It should not be used as a substitute for proper drug treatment, especially with opioids.
Some may find themselves dealing with a Kratom addiction, whether they began using it to lessen their opioid misuse or by other means. No matter how one becomes addicted to Kratom, the fact that there isn’t much-researched information on the substance can make this a frightening experience. Since the DEA and FDA have not yet taken official stances on this substance, people are still seeking treatment for Kratom addiction. The treatment process is similar to other drug treatments and is overseen by a medical professional.
Safe Medication-Assisted Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder
Even though some claim that professionals can use Kratom to treat withdrawal symptoms of opioid use disorder, there is not enough evidence to support this claim. Kratom carries negative, addictive side effects and risks. Instead, MedMark uses medication-assisted treatments (MAT) with FDA-approved medications such as methadone, buprenorphine and buprenorphine with naloxone.
Methadone has been used to treat opioid use disorder for more than 50 years, and it is an effective treatment when combined with other supportive treatments such as substance use counseling. Methadone is a full agonist opioid that can ease the symptoms of withdrawal during treatment. Methadone activates receptors in the brain to fill the body’s need for opioids without the dangers of misusing opioids. It reduces cravings and the negative physical side effects that occur during withdrawal so that patients are less likely to relapse.
Buprenorphine and buprenorphine with naloxone are also used to treat opioid use disorder. The FDA approved these medications in 2002, and like methadone, they work well when combined with other supportive treatments. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist that activates the brain’s opioid receptors to a lower extent than methadone. It reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms while it blocks other opioids in the brain and limits the euphoric or “high” feeling that people can get.
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid use disorder, it is essential to seek safe treatment options. Medication-assisted treatment programs will help patients with safe, FDA-approved medications.
Contact MedMark to learn more about our medication-assisted treatment options and how we can help patients safely achieve recovery from opioid use disorder.