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What is Kratom? Is My Loved One Abusing Kratom?

What is Kratom? Is My Loved One Abusing Kratom?

Kratom (Mitragyna speciose) is a type of evergreen tree in the coffee family. It is native to Southeast Asia, with leaves that contain psychoactive compounds similar to that of opioids. In short, its original use in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea was for medicinal purposes. But, after making its way to America we have begun to experience an increase in abuse. 

Kratom is not a regulated substance and does not require a prescription to obtain. However, the consumption of Kratom leaves is fresh or dried. Leaves are chewed whole, or ground into a green powder and can be either capsulated or brewed as a tea.

Kratom is consumed for mood-lifting effects, pain relief, and as an aphrodisiac however, people who use it report increased energy, sociability, and alertness. Due to the effect, the similarity kratom creates on substances that are frequently abused it has recently become a problem in sober living homes.

Exclusively found in the Asian regions until the twenty century, it only recently began making its way to the United States. That is to say, you can often find it at your local kava bar and sometimes gas stations. You will also find it labeled as “not for human consumption”.

The Risks of Kratom 

Kratom like any other substance comes with a long list of possible health effects. Therefore, these health effects most frequently include sensitivity to the sun, nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination, and loss of appetite. For example, some adverse effects reported with high-dose use include tachycardia, dizziness, hypotension, constipation, tremor, anorexia, seizures, and psychosis.1 Significantly, however, the kratom alkaloids produce little to no respiratory depression, and tolerance and dependence appear to develop more slowly than with traditional opiates.2

On the other hand, to date, there are no fatal overdose reports from kratom by itself. However, commercial forms of the drug-laced with other compounds have caused deaths.

In other words, kratom is typically tolerated from occasional use. However serious health effects occur from prolonged and abusive use. As a result of misuse, symptoms both physical and psychological have been reported. 

Symptoms reported: 

  • Nausea 
  • Itching 
  • Sweating
  • Anorexia
  • Weight Loss
  • Insomnia
  • Dry Mouth
  • Frequent Urination
  • Constipation
  • Psychotic symptoms 
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusion
  • Confusion
  • Physical Dependence

Abuse or Withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Muscle aches 
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Hostility/Aggression
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations 
  • Trouble with emotional regulation
  • Cold and flu symptoms (i.e. runny rose) 
  • Jerky movements

Identifying Abuse 

Firstly, the signs of kratom use include any combination of the above symptoms. The signs of use widely depend on the dosage amount the person has consumed. If taken in small doses it will be harder to identify. You will notice a sudden increase in energy and other various symptoms. However, if someone takes a higher dose of kratom, they will likely appear as if they are very happy and even euphoric, much like they would if they were to take a narcotic.

Prolonged use will come with many side effects. Ultimately, you will notice withdrawal symptoms to be present when the usage is decreased and this is the major sign of dependency. Most importantly, if you are concerned your loved one may be using kratom or other substances, give us a call to help you address the behavior more effectively.

  1.  Warner ML, Kaufman NC, Grundmann O. The pharmacology and toxicology of kratom: from traditional herb to drug of abuse. Int J Legal Med. 2016;130(1):127-138.
  2. Varadi A, Marrone GF, Palmer TC, et al. Mitragynine/corynantheidine pseudoindoxyls as opioid analgesics with mu agonism and delta antagonism, which do not recruit -arrestin-2. J Med Chem. 2016;59(18):8381-8397.