Some people who struggle with opioids have been turning to something called kratom, and while it may seem like a harmless alternative to opioids, it’s not a substance without its own risks.
What Is Kratom?
While kratom may be new to people in Colorado and the U.S., it’s not a new substance in general. It’s derived from a tree that’s native to Southeast Asia, and it’s been used by indigenous people in these areas for many years. It can be used as a stimulant or a sedative, and the effects generally depend on how much of it’s taken.
Some of the reasons people take kratom aside from trying to self-medicate an opioid addiction is because it’s not discernible on most drug tests and it’s legal.
This tropical substance derived from an evergreen tree can be consumed by chewing the leaves, drying it and smoking it, boiling it into a tea or putting it in capsules. If you take kratom at a low dose, it tends to act as a stimulant, and at high doses, people feel like it’s more of a depressant with effects similar to opioids.
It can be used to treat pain as with prescription opioids, and sometimes people may use it to treat the withdrawal symptoms they experience as they come off opioids. It can also just be used recreationally.
This herb has been tested for its effectiveness as a treatment for PTSD as well, and it’s been used for centuries in Southeast Asia by workers to help them stay productive since as mentioned at low doses it does act as a stimulant for most people.
For several years kratom has been debated in terms of whether or not it should be outlawed in the U.S. and some countries in Southeast Asia have already made it illegal. In 2016, the DEA said it was planning on regulating kratom as a Schedule I substance, which is the most restrictive on the list of drug scheduling. However, this didn’t end up occurring.
Currently, some advocates are pushing for kratom to be regulated as a natural supplement, and in the meantime, while it’s not illegal nationally, some states have restricted the use of the drug, although Colorado is not among those states.
Kratom is considered a psychoactive substance, and at the highest doses the effects are like morphine for people, and it impacts the brain’s opioid receptors and also alters chemical messaging that takes place in the brain. Kratom abuse is definitely something that can happen.
Understanding Kratom Addiction
While people in Colorado may be using kratom as a way to treat their own opioid addiction, or for other reasons, they may not be aware of the potential risks of this substance.
Just because it’s not illegal doesn’t mean kratom isn’t potentially addictive or doesn’t have possible negative side effects.
Some of the possible adverse side effects of kratom include sedation, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, loss of appetite, itching, dizziness, constipation, and confusion.
First and foremost, when you take any drug that’s psychoactive or mind-altering, and this includes kratom, you’re changing the chemistry of your brain. This can cause your brain’s chemical messengers to be artificially stimulated, depressed, or to have problems with absorption. As with opioids, kratom binds to opioid receptors in your central nervous system more than likely, and that’s why people experience the effects they do.
Whenever you take a substance regularly that changes your brain chemistry it can cause disruptions in the functionality of your brain that can ultimately lead to a psychological addiction. Kratom can prevent chemical messengers from moving and functioning in your brain as they’re intended to, then the cycle of addiction can begin.
A lot of people find that with kratom they replace one addiction with another.
There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done about kratom, but it stands to reason that if you take any substance that alters your thoughts, feelings or perceptions, there is the potential for addiction because it’s likely impacting your brain’s reward center and neural pathways.
Is Kratom Physically Addictive?
Kratom is almost certainly physically addictive. It’s easier to see the outward effects of physical addiction to kratom as compared to the psychological effects.
When someone takes kratom for a period of time, they may experience withdrawal symptoms similar to opioids when they try to stop taking it suddenly. Reported withdrawal side effects of kratom have included abdominal cramping, sweating, diarrhea, anxiety, cravings, irritability, and anxiety.
Just as there are Colorado treatment options for opioid addiction in places like Palmer Lake, there are also kratom addiction treatment options available. Rather than replacing an opioid addiction with a kratom addiction, it’s important to seek professional treatment. Even if you weren’t previously addicted to opioids but feel you could have a psychological or physical addiction to kratom, there are treatment resources in Colorado you can turn to.
Kratom Side Effects
In most people, the common side effects of kratom vary based on how much you have.
With small doses, kratom side effects are similar to a stimulant. This means that people may feel increased energy and alertness, a decreased appetite, talkativeness and sociability, and a higher libido. At low doses, other side effects of kratom may include anxiety or agitation.
With a higher dose, kratom side effects are more like an opioid. High-dose kratom side effects can include pain relief, sleepiness, relaxation, and in some cases, the feeling of a euphoric high.
Other potential kratom side effects, which again, depending on the dose, may include:
- Small pupils
- Flushing of the face
- Coordination problems
- Nausea and vomiting
Kratom Side Effects In the Long-Term
There is currently limited research on this herbal substance in the U.S., but based on evidence from heavy kratom users in Thailand, where the substance is native, potential long-term side effects of kratom may include hyperpigmentation of facial skin, weight loss, anorexia, and psychosis.
Long-term kratom symptoms may also include insomnia, dry mouth, urination, and constipation.
Kratom Use Symptoms
When someone takes a low dose, symptoms of kratom use can look like they have taken amphetamines, although the symptoms might not be as pronounced. A person who has taken a low dose will often show kratom symptoms such as having a high energy level, more focus and alertness, and a sense of well-being. People who take low doses of kratom may be more social, may have an increase in their libido, and a diminished appetite.
People who take higher doses of kratom may have symptoms similar to opioids, but not as severe. These symptoms can include drowsiness, itchiness, and dizziness.
Kratom Overdose Signs
In the U.S., the DEA has expressed concern over the use of kratom because of the potential for toxicity or kratom overdose signs to occur.
There has been some debate as to whether or not kratom will be scheduled as an illegal drug, but in the meantime, according to the CDC, there have been several kratom-related incidents in the past few years. The number of calls to the Poison Control Center has gone up more than 40% because of kratom between 2010 and 2015.
So, what are the signs of too much kratom?
- A rapid heart rate
When someone takes large amounts, other signs of too much kratom may include psychosis or psychotic symptoms such as confusion and hallucinations. When someone takes kratom with another substance like alcohol, these symptoms may be heightened.
Kratom Addiction Symptoms
People frequently wonder whether or not it’s possible to be addicted to kratom, and the answer is yes, it is, but it may be different from an addiction to another type of drugs, such as opioids.
The following are some of the possible kratom addiction signs:
- Someone who is spending more and more time using kratom, or seems to be preoccupied with its use may be showing signs of kratom addiction
- Withdrawing from friends, family or obligations can be one of the kratom addiction symptoms
- Trying to stop using kratom unsuccessfully may be one of the symptoms of kratom addiction
- Using large amounts of kratom or developing a tolerance for the substance can be a red flag of potential addiction
- Continuing to use it even when there are negative consequences can indicate signs of kratom addiction
With kratom, there can be physical dependence that develops as well. This means that your body is dependent on the presence of kratom, and without you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Kratom withdrawal symptoms include muscle aches, sleep disturbances, and mood changes such as irritability and hostility.
If you think you have a problem with kratom or you see symptoms of kratom addiction in a loved one, there are Colorado addiction resources available. Along with The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, there are national resources we operate as well.
Kratom Treatment in Colorado
There are kratom addiction treatment options available in Colorado, including at our Palmer Lake facility.
If you think you have a problem with kratom, it can be useful to explore treatment for kratom addiction.
Since kratom has many of the same effects on the body and central nervous system as opioids, kratom addiction treatment is similar to opioid treatment.
When you seek out treatment for kratom addiction, it’s beneficial not just in helping you stop using this particular substance, but you can get to the root of your addictions in general. For example, if you started using kratom as a way to stop using another opioid, this can be thoroughly addressed during treatment for kratom addiction.
Many people who struggle with addiction also tend to have underlying mental health disorders that may not be diagnosed or treated, and they use substances like kratom to self-medicate. This is another area treatment for kratom addiction can help you deal with. As an example, at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, we do dual-diagnosis treatment when necessary, so we can work on treating underlying mental health issues at the same time as we help you recover from addiction.
If you are addicted to kratom and searching for treatment options, it’s important to choose a program that takes a holistic approach. Kratom addiction and addiction, in general, are not concepts that exist in a vacuum. They’re complex and surrounded by various factors including mental health issues, environmental and social issues, family dynamics, and more.
Kratom Rehab in Colorado
As with other drug rehabs, rehab for kratom can take different forms. One option for kratom addiction rehab is to participate in a residential rehab program. This may or may not include a medically supervised detox program.
During a residential treatment program, the patient receives comprehensive therapy and support in a live-in environment. This is well-suited to people who are struggling with severe addictions or complex situations, such as a kratom addiction along with a mental health disorder, or a polydrug addiction.
There are both long-term and short-term residential options, but another program style is outpatient rehab for kratom. During outpatient kratom addiction rehab patients don’t have to stay in the facility, but they can instead continue their daily lives, and then participate in group, individual, and family therapy in addition.
This is optimal for someone who might have a mild kratom abuse problem or someone who hasn’t previously tried other programs to stop using the drug.
Kratom Addiction Help
Kratom isn’t well-researched or understood in the U.S. so finding treatment options may feel difficult, but that’s something The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake offers.
We work with patients who abuse or are addicted to kratom, and we understand what the kratom addiction recovery experience can look like for them.
Does Insurance Cover Kratom Addiction?
One of our biggest priorities when working with Colorado patients and patients from across the country is that we want to help them get treatment first and foremost, and make sure that it’s the right treatment. A big obstacle people fear with treatment for kratom addiction or any type of rehab is that they can’t afford it, but in many cases insurance does cover rehab, at least partially.
If you contact our Palmer Lake intake coordinators they can work with you on insurance approvals, and if you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover certain parts of kratom addiction rehab, there are other options available as well.
FDA. “FDA and Kratom.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration, September 11, 2019. Accessed June 9, 2021.
NIH. “Kratom.” National Institutes of Health, November 2018. Accessed June 9, 2021.
NIDA. “Kratom DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, April 8, 2019. Accessed June 9, 2021.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.