The Food and Drug Administration has warned the public about the health risks of kratom use.
What is kratom?
Kratom is a tree native to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo, etc.). Its botanical name is Mitragyna speciosa. Kratom is in the same family as the coffee tree (Rubiaceae). The leaves of kratom have been used as an herbal drug from time immemorial by peoples of Southeast Asia. It is used in folk medicine as a stimulant (at low doses), sedative (at high doses), recreational drug, pain killer, medicine for diarrhea, and treatment for opiate addiction. Many people report that kratom is an effective treatment for arthritis, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and fibromyalgia.
How is it taken?
In its native region, kratom leaves are often chewed fresh (usually after removing the stringy central vein). Dried leaves can also be chewed, but since they are a bit tough, most people prefer to crush them up or powder them so that they can be swallowed easily.
Powdered kratom can be mixed with water and then drunk. This method is quick and easy. It can also be mixed with other liquids, such as fruit juice, milk, or kefir. Chocolate milk works especially well for masking the taste. Powdered kratom can also be made into a paste that can easily be swallowed with water. The powder can also be mixed with applesauce or yogurt. It can also be put into capsules.
Dried kratom leaves are often made into a tea that is strained and then drunk. Kratom can be smoked, but doing so is impractical because the amount of leaf that constitutes a typical dose is too much to be smoked easily. A resin-like extract can be prepared by evaporating the water from kratom tea.
This can be stored for later use. Small pellets of this extract can be swallowed, or it can be dissolved in hot water and consumed as a tea. Some people like to mix kratom tea with ordinary black tea, or other herbal teas before it is consumed. This is done to make it more palatable. Sugar or honey can be added to sweeten it.
Why Is Kratom Considered Risky to Use?
Two hundred and sixty-three people called U.S. poison centers in 2015 after using kratom-containing products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Common complaints associated with kratom use included: a rapid heartbeat, feeling agitated, or feeling nauseous. (1)
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.
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.
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