ClickCease Is Kratom Addictive? - Granite Recovery Centers

Is Kratom Addictive?

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

Kratom is a tree that can be found in Southeast Asia, and it is in the same family as the coffee tree. When people ingest the leaves of this tree, they experience psychotropic effects. Since kratom isn’t illegal in the United States, people can easily obtain it by ordering it online.

In most cases, people consume kratom by chewing the leaves or taking it in pill form. They may also brew the leaves to create a tea or place it in beverages or cough syrup that contains codeine. Some people even smoke the leaves of kratom, and others may spread it on their food and eat it.

Kratom Effects

Kratom acts as a stimulant and creates effects that are similar to those that opioids create. Mitragynine and 7-a-hydroxymitragynine are two compounds found in kratom, and they interact with the opioid receptors in the brain. When this occurs, people begin to feel sedated. They typically feel an increased level of pleasure, and if they are experiencing any pain, the pain begins to dissipate. These effects are even more pronounced when the user consumes a large amount of the substance.

Mitragynine also works on other brain receptors, and this produces effects similar to those of stimulants. Smaller amounts of this substance cause the user to be more alert rather than sedated. The user also has more energy and is much more social than usual. Ingesting kratom often causes people to talk a lot and spend less time sleeping.

The effects that kratom produces are not always positive. They can be highly uncomfortable for the user and even deadly. The Journal of Addictive Diseases reported that an increased number of people have been calling poison control centers because of kratom. From 2011 to 2017, poison control centers received 1,800 reports of kratom use, and some people were reporting deaths due to the substance. Approximately 50% of the 1,800 cases experienced hypertension and seizures.

Kratom Use

It only takes 5 to 10 minutes for a user to begin to feel the effects of kratom, and these effects will last between two and five hours. As people increase the amount of kratom they ingest, the effects become even more intense. Medical professionals don’t know how much kratom a user needs to take for it to be toxic, but they acknowledge the fact that people can overdose on kratom.

Overdosing on Kratom

Between 2011 and 2017, the National Poison Data System registered 11 kratom-related fatalities. Benzodiazepines, cocaine, fentanyl, caffeine, alcohol and diphenhydramine were present in the victims’ bloodstreams along with the kratom, but two of the deceased only had kratom in their systems.

In 2017, the FDA listed 44 fatalities that were related to kratom and other dangerous substances, but at least one of the fatalities was only due to kratom. Mixing kratom with other substances may increase the risk that the drug presents for people.

Research on Kratom

Research once supported kratom as an alternative to opioids, but this belief has been debunked. The research even suggests that there aren’t any benefits to ingesting kratom at all. It often interacts with prescription medications and causes people to experience severe headaches. It also reduces the person’s ability to communicate.

When an expectant mother ingests kratom, the baby may be born addicted to the substance and may experience withdrawal symptoms.

When comparing kratom use in people dependent upon alcohol and those not addicted to alcohol, researchers found that those dependent on alcohol had a higher risk of suicide attempts than other kratom users. In addition, researchers believe that kratom use makes any existing mental health disorders worse. This population has a higher risk of dying by suicide than those without a co-occurring mental health disorder.

In addition to the problems that kratom creates for users, it may contain salmonella. In 2018, 130 people contracted the bacteria as a result of their kratom use. The FDA stated that more than 35 people died from salmonella that they contracted from kratom.

Limited Research

The fact is that kratom hasn’t been extensively studied, so the medical community cannot recommend it as a remedy for any illnesses or conditions. When new drugs are being developed, research studies are highly important because the research identifies any harmful effects. It also illuminates the interactions between the new drug and previously approved drugs.

Research also informs the medical community of the appropriate dosage for the medication. Kratom produces strong effects on a person’s body, and there hasn’t been enough research to show that it is beneficial to humans. The medical community cannot say that the safety of this substance has been definitively established. Because kratom is not FDA approved, the FDA is not regulating it.

Effects Associated With Kratom Use

A user may experience the following side effects when using kratom:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Loss of appetite
  • An increase of urination
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Itching
  • Nausea

Some people have even reported experiencing symptoms of psychosis.

Kratom in the United States

In the United States, kratom isn’t illegal, and some companies used to market it as a nutritional supplement. However, many people were experiencing negative reactions to the substance, so the Food and Drug Administration banned it for human consumption in 2014. The Drug Enforcement Agency is calling it a “drug of concern.” It is considered to be a drug that can be abused with the possibility of dependence and addiction if someone uses this drug for a long period of time.

What Is the Dependence Like?

As a user takes a drug that can alter the person’s mind, changes occur in the brain’s natural chemistry. The brain produces chemical messengers and sends them to various parts of the body. When someone takes a mind-altering substance, it causes the entire body to be stimulated, become depressed or absorb the chemicals improperly. The opioid receptors become filled with kratom, and this causes the neurotransmitters to build up in the brain. As a result, the user experiences a “high.”

The process described above interferes with how the brain normally works, and when this happens on a regular basis, the brain begins to expect this interference to continue. Without the substance, the brain’s chemicals will not react in the same manner, so it needs the person to ingest more of the substance. When this occurs, the person is considered to be dependent on the drug.

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms for Kratom?

Kratom causes people to become dependent upon the substance, so if a user suddenly stops ingesting it, withdrawal symptoms will begin. These withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Tremors
  • A runny nose
  • Emotional changes
  • Aggression
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Pain in the muscles

People can develop a dependency on kratom for several reasons. If they are ingesting a large amount of the substance or have been using it for a long time, this increases their chances of becoming dependent on the drug. A dependence also occurs when people are using more substances than just kratom or have a mental health disorder or a substance use disorder as well. They may have genetic markers that increase their chances of becoming dependent on kratom, but it can even be caused by an increased amount of stress.

When people are dependent on a substance, they may also be addicted to it. If they stop ingesting kratom at this point, they may begin to crave it and experience withdrawal symptoms.

Signs of a Kratom Addiction

When people are addicted to kratom and other substances, you may notice the following behavioral changes:

  • Getting too much or too little sleep
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Being unable to control how much kratom one consumes
  • Being unable to refrain from using kratom
  • Ceasing formerly enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Having troubles at work or school
  • Continuing to use kratom even though it is causing problems
  • Taking more risks

Addiction is also characterized by the need to increase consumption of kratom to feel previously experienced effects. The person may be dependent on the drug, so withdrawal symptoms will begin after they suddenly stop using kratom.

Warnings About Kratom

Although the federal government isn’t outlawing kratom, the FDA is warning Americans not to ingest the substance because kratom has the potential to cause people to become addicted. The agency is also concerned about kratom’s propensity to cause people to abuse it and become dependent on it.

The FDA has not approved kratom for any use whatsoever, and it continues to investigate the safety, efficacy and usefulness of the substance. Currently, the agency warns people not to use a product if it contains kratom.

In addition to the warnings, the FDA has been confiscating kratom when it appears in the United States. In 2014, the FDA asked U.S. marshals to seize approximately 25,000 pounds of raw kratom in Van Nuys, California. In 2016, the FDA enlisted help to seize almost 90,000 bottles of dietary supplements that contained kratom. The FDA also requested that U.S. marshals confiscate more than 100 cases that contained products with kratom listed as an ingredient.

Is Kratom Safe?

Some people use kratom to help them overcome their addictions to opioids. However, kratom may not be providing them with a solution to their substance use disorder because it also causes people to become tolerant to the substance. This causes them to need to increase the amount of kratom that they are consuming. If they try to stop ingesting this drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms just like they were experiencing with opioids.

Granite Recovery Centers

Kratom can cause people to develop a dependence on the drug and become addicted to it. Individuals who are addicted cannot stop using this substance without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms may be too unpleasant for you or your loved one to undergo, leading to frequent relapse. However, you don’t have to face addiction alone. Our drug detox program at Granite Recovery Centers will ensure that you can safely detox from this substance.

In our medical detox program, physicians and nurses administer medications that relieve the symptoms of withdrawal. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency. After the detox process is over, you may choose between our inpatient treatment program and outpatient treatment program for continued treatment of your substance use disorder.

Treating addiction is sometimes a long process, so it requires compassionate support. At Granite Recovery Centers, we will make sure that you can receive treatment for as long as you need it. If you or a loved one is ready to get the process started, call us today.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.