Kratom comes from a tree found in tropical regions of Southeast Asia. Fresh or dried kratom leaves are chewed or brewed in a tea. Kratom may also appear in powder and tablet form and is sometimes sold as a dietary or nutritional supplement or incense.
Kratom’s effects are similar to those of opioid drugs like morphine and heroin. Although kratom has been used as a treatment for opioid addiction, it can be addictive as well and may lead to relapse.
Read on to find out more.
Kratom has different effects at low and high doses.
At low doses, kratom has energizing (stimulant) effects. At high doses, it can have pain-relieving (analgesic) and sleep-inducing (sedative) effects.
Specific side effects are listed below.
- sense of well-being
- increased social behavior
- pain relief
- increased energy
- increased libido
- dry mouth
- increased urination
- loss of appetite
- sensitivity to sunburn
- increased motivation
- increased alertness
Dependence and addiction aren’t the same.
Drug dependence refers to a physical state in which your body is dependent on a drug. You need more and more of the substance to achieve the same effect (tolerance). You experience mental and physical effects (withdrawal) if you stop taking the drug.
When you have an addiction, you can’t stop using a drug, regardless of the negative consequences. Addiction can occur with or without physical dependence on the drug, though physical dependence is a common feature.
What causes addiction? Addiction has many causes. Some are related to your environment and life experiences, such as having friends who use drugs. Others are genetic. When you take a drug, certain genetic factors can increase your risk of developing an addiction.
Regular drug use changes your brain chemistry, affecting how you experience pleasure. This can make it difficult to simply stop using the drug once you’ve started.
Addiction often has common signs. It doesn’t matter what the substance is.
Some general signs include:
- wanting to use the substance on a regular basis, perhaps daily or several times per day
- experiencing an urge to use that’s so extreme it makes it difficult to focus on anything else
- taking more of the substance or taking the substance for a longer period of time than intended
- needing larger doses to achieve the same effect as substance use continues
- keeping a constant supply of the substance
- spending money on the substance, even when money is tight
- resorting to risky behaviors to get the substance, such as stealing or violence
- engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of the substance, such as driving or having unprotected sex
- using the substance in spite of the problems it causes or the risk it poses
- spending excessive amounts of time obtaining the substance, using it, and recovering from its effects
- trying and failing to stop using the substance
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms once substance use has stopped
Your friend or loved one might try to hide an addiction from you. You might wonder if it’s drug use or something else, such as a stressful job or teenage hormones.
The following can be signs of drug addiction:
- changes in mood: mood swings, anxiety, depression, or irritation
- changes in behavior: acting secretive, aggressive, or violent
- changes in physical appearance: red eyes, weight loss or weight gain, poor hygiene
- health issues: lack of energy, fatigue, chronic illnesses related to drug use
- changes in social activities: withdrawal from friends or family, relationship problems, new friendships with known drug users
- poor school or work performance: a drop in grades or work performance, loss of a job, disinterest in school or work, skipping school or work on a regular basis
- money or legal problems: asking for money without a rational explanation, stealing money from friends or family members, being arrested
The first step is identifying any misconceptions you may have about drug use and addiction. Remember that drug use changes the structure and chemistry of the brain, making it impossible to simply stop taking the drug.
Next, learn more about risks and side effects, including the signs of intoxication or overdose. Investigate potential treatment options to present to your loved one.
Think carefully about the best way to approach your loved one with your concerns.
You might be considering staging an intervention with other family members or friends. While intervention may motivate your loved one to seek help for an addiction, there are no guarantees. Confrontation-style interventions can have the opposite effect, leading to anger, mistrust, or isolation. Sometimes a simple conversation is a better option.
Be prepared for every outcome. Your loved one might deny having a problem at all or refuse to seek help. If that happens, seek out additional resources or find a support group for family members or friends of people living with addiction.
Asking for help can be an important first step. If you — or your loved one — are ready to begin treatment, consider bringing a supportive friend or family member into the fold to help you on your road to recovery.
A lot of people start by making a doctor’s appointment. Your doctor will perform a physical exam to assess your overall health. They can also discuss your options for treatment, refer you to a treatment center, and answer any questions you have about what happens next.
Speak to a doctor or other health professional for a recommendation.
You can also search for a nearby treatment center using the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator, a free online tool provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Detoxification (detox) is a process aimed at helping you stop taking a drug as safely and as quickly as possible.
According to SAMHSA, detox has three main steps:
- Evaluation involves measuring the amount of the substance in the bloodstream and screening for other health conditions.
- Stabilization refers to the transition from using drugs or experiencing withdrawal to becoming substance-free. Medication is sometimes used to help stabilization.
- The pretreatment stage involves preparing to start an addiction treatment program. It sometimes requires a person to commit themselves to a treatment plan.
There is relatively little research about kratom detox and withdrawal.
A 2010 case study published in European Addiction Research reported the following withdrawal symptoms:
Other withdrawal symptoms have also been reported. These include:
- aches and pains
- aggression and hostility
- difficulty sleeping
- jerky movements
- mood swings
- runny nose
- weakness and fatigue
Kratom detox may involve gradually reducing the drug dose to minimize these effects. This may take up to a week.
There are numerous treatment options available. Most of the time, people use more than one. Common treatments for Kratom addiction are listed below.
Therapy is conducted by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or addictions counselor. You can do it on your own, with your family, or in a group.
There are many different types of therapy. Behavioral therapy refers to all forms of therapy aimed at helping you identify and change self-destructive attitudes and behaviors, particularly those that lead to drug use. A therapist can work with you to help you cope with cravings, avoid drugs, and prevent relapse.
Therapy can be intensive during the first weeks and months of treatment. Later, you might transition to seeing a therapist on a less frequent basis.
Research has yet to identify the best medications for kratom addiction. Dihydrocodeine and lofexidine (Lucemyra) are typically used to treat opioid withdrawal. They’ve also been used to treat kratom withdrawal.
The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) suggests that treatment for kratom withdrawal and addiction can also include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs.
Kratom addiction is treatable. It’s important to remember that recovering from any addiction is an ongoing process that can take time. Be patient and kind to yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your doctor can help you find support resources in your area.
Relapse is sometimes part of the recovery process. Learning techniques for relapse prevention and management is an important part of a long-term recovery plan.
The following can help you reduce your risk of relapse in the long term:
- avoiding people, places, and things that make you want to use drugs
- seeking support from your family, friends, or healthcare provider when you need it
- finding work or activities that feel meaningful to you
- adopting healthy habits, such as eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly
- practicing self-care, especially when it comes to your mental health
- changing your thinking
- developing a positive self-image
- setting goals for the future
Depending on your situation, reducing your risk of relapse may also include taking medications for anxiety or depression, seeing a therapist on a regular basis, or practicing mindfulness techniques, such as meditation.