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Kratom: A Helpful Herb or Toxic Substance

Kratom: A Helpful Herb or Toxic Substance

What is Kratom?

Kratom comes from the dried leaves of a tropical tree in Southeast Asia called Mitragyna speciosa. The tree from which Kratom derives is part of the coffee family. Containing both stimulant and sedative properties. Kratom was originally used in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea as a medicinal plant. However the question remains, is Kratom a helpful herb or toxic substance?

How is Kratom Used?

When kratom is chewed it creates a mild stimulant effect, similar to the feeling of caffeine. In Southeast Asia, Kratom has been used recreationally and medically since the nineteenth century. However, today kratom is consumed or sold as a pill, capsule, extract, tinctures, and in drinks. The most common way people use kratom is by brewing it into tea.

There are kava bars popping up all over the country that offer kratom teas and sell them in powder form as well. 

What Does Kratom Do? 

Originally Kratom was used in Southeast Asia as a psychostimulant that could be chewed or made into a tea. This tea helps increase alertness, focus, and energy. Kratom is similar to other psychostimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, methamphetamine, and cocaine. 

However, the effects of Kratom can vary depending on the dose taken. When given a stronger dose, kratom can act as a sedative and pain reliever similar to opiate drugs. This is due to the two compounds found in kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, interacting with opioid receptors in the brain. 

Does Kratom Have Side Effects? 

Although kratom is a natural substance that comes from the earth, it does come with the potential of severe side effects. Poison control centers in the U.S. have reported about 1,800 cases involving kratom between the years 2011 and 2017. These reports also included deaths.

Although people advocate for the values of this substance, do the benefits outweigh the effects? Again, is kratom a Helpful Herb or Toxic Substance?

Some of the negative side effects from kratom use include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Chills or tremors 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Liver damage
  • Muscle pain
  • Itching
  • Tounge numbness
  • Anxiety

Kratom also has negative side effects on the mind and nervous system which include: 

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac issues
  • Insomnia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Liver failure 

Is Kratom Addictive?

Any mind-altering drug changes the brain’s natural chemistry. Although kratom is used to help combat opioid urges, it too is an addictive substance. The brain creates a dependency in as little as six months, as well as withdrawal symptoms similar to opioid withdrawal. 

If you notice yourself of a loved one abusing, or needing kratom, contact a treatment center like the Harm Reduction Center. HARC offers resources to help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Withdrawal symptoms of kratom addiction can include: 

  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Rigidity
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Changes in mood 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Irritability 
  • Agitation

Is Kratom a Helpful Herb or Toxic Substance?

With a lack of research on the effects of kratom, federal agencies such as the DEA and FDA have been trying to ban the substance since 2016.

They have failed to do so due to outcries from more than 130,000 Americans who opposed the ban. Scientists, kratom advocates, and lawmakers are still urging the DEA to not ban kratom. This would further prevent researchers from being able to study the effects of kratom. 

What we do know from the effects of kratom are mostly provided by the American Kratom Association and their members who share their knowledge of the drug and its effects. Any substance, whether kratom or a stronger substance, has the ability to cause severe effects, addiction, and death. If you need a resource or someone to talk to for more answers about kratom and safety, contact the Harm Reduction Center today!