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Kratom and Substance Use Disorder

Some health and wellness community people recommend kratom, an herbal substance, to help with various ailments, including pain management and opioid withdrawal. Kratom is a substance sold as capsules, powder, or even tea in dispensaries, gas stations, and smoke shops. It works very much like other illicit drugs. While illegal to import, the drug has not yet been outlawed in the United States. People claim it can help treat a variety of illnesses. However, much controversy surrounds it, including the fact that it has been outlawed and treated like a narcotic in several Asian countries.

What Is Kratom?

Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia.  Its leaves have been used for medicinal purposes and as a stimulant in those regions. Recently, it has gained popularity in the Western world and is touted as a natural remedy for pain, anxiety, and opioid withdrawal symptoms. Using it for substance use disorder, however, may be trading one addiction for another. No government agency has tested kratom for medicinal value, and supplements are barely regulated.

The active compounds in kratom, called alkaloids, primarily interact with opioid receptors in the brain. This gives the drug its analgesic and sedative effects but can also lead to dependence and addiction. While some proponents claim that it can help individuals wean off opioids, limited scientific evidence supports its efficacy and safety for this purpose.

Why Is Kratom a Concern for People With SUD?

The concern for people with substance use disorder lies in the potential for kratom to be abused or used as a substitute for other opioids. It can produce effects similar to opioids, including euphoria and sedation. Many people describe it as a painkiller, an antidepressant, and a substance that helps boost energy. They may experience elation and feel “high.” Long-term and heavy use of kratom has been associated with dependence. Addiction to it can lead to withdrawal symptoms and negative health effects that are all very similar to those of opioid users.

Aside from the addiction dangers, there is a lack of regulation and quality control in the kratom market. This adds to the concerns, allowing products to vary widely in potency and purity. Like other drugs, some supplies are adultered with other drugs such as fentanyl. For opioid-naïve drug users, this can cause overdose and death.

Kratom Needs More Scrutiny

The history of kratom is deeply rooted in Southeast Asian cultures, where it has been used for centuries as a folk medicine and recreational substance. However, it has also been the target of legal and regulatory scrutiny in various countries, including the United States, where people are no longer allowed to import it. Its use and sale are still technically legal, but producers must live in the US.

Some nations have banned or restricted the drug due to its potential health risks, while others have implemented regulations to control its sale and use.

It's important to note that the understanding of kratom is still evolving, and research on its effects and safety is ongoing.

Kratom Can Be Addictive

The substance contains active compounds called alkaloids, such as mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine, which interact with opioid receptors in the brain. These interactions can produce analgesic and sedative effects, leading to dependence and addiction. The effect is very similar to opioids such as heroin or morphine.

The reinforcing effects of kratom, such as euphoria and relaxation, can contribute to its addictive potential. Some people may use it to get high and continue trying to experience those feelings.

The primary reason kratom can be addictive is its ability to activate the mu-opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are associated with the rewarding effects of drugs and play a role in the development of addiction. When it binds to these receptors, it can trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in pleasure and reward.

Quitting Kratom Can Be Difficult

Repeated use of kratom can lead to tolerance, just like opioids, which means that higher doses are needed to achieve the desired effects. As tolerance develops, individuals may increase their consumption, potentially leading to substance use disorder.

Trying to quit can result in withdrawal symptoms if someone has been using kratom for a while. Withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, cravings, muscle aches, insomnia, tremors, and mood disturbances.

Getting sober from kratom is similar to other addictive drugs; you can be made comfortable through detox and begin your journey to recovery via addiction treatment centers.

Getting Help for Substance Use Disorder

Addiction can afflict anyone at any age and doesn’t discriminate between substances. If you or a loved one has been using substances and needs help quitting, we’re here for you. Learn more about how we can help you restore your health, happiness, and confidence in recovery. We’re here to help you get sober and find your way, call us at the US at (949) 279-1376 or Mexico: (612) 153-5726.



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Hi! I’m Melissa Stailey, a freelance writer that loves to cook. I live and work in Washington, DC.