Colorado, including large cities like Denver and Colorado Springs, as well as small cities and towns, have all been feeling the effects of the opioid epidemic sweeping the country.
Opioids include prescription drugs and street drugs like heroin, and Colorado state officials and lawmakers have been looking for ways to slow the deaths that occur because of overdoses related to these drugs.
At the individual level, 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, or 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 illegally 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.
Is Kratom Addictive?
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 in Colorado, 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?
While there is still research to be done on the psychological addictiveness of kratom, what about whether or not kratom is physically addictive?
The answer to this is almost certainly yes. It’s easier to see the outward effects of a 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.