In the past several years, the use of kratom has become more common. However, it is still a fairly new term to many people. Because of the effects it produces, people often use to self-treat pain, anxiety, depression or fatigue. Because it is not regulated and its risks are still being researched, statistics may underrepresent its prevalence. According to research of nearly 3.34 million adults in 2020, the lifetime use prevalence of kratom was 1.3%. Although some users praise the substance and recommend it to others, there are potential dangers. A major danger is people substituting it for addiction treatment. Kratom cannot cure addiction.
What Is Kratom?
Mitragyna speciosa is the proper name for kratom, a tree in the same family as coffee. It is cultivated in Africa and Southeast Asia. The plant has mu opioid partial agonists. Kratom affects the brain’s natural opioid receptors to produce effects. Low doses of the substance make people feel more alert, and higher doses tend to produce feelings of pleasure, pain relief and sedation. Historically, in regions where the plant comes from, people have used it for medicinal and religious ceremonial purposes.
Due to full effects still needing more research and the growing popularity of kratom, the Drug Enforcement Agency considers it a substance of concern. Since it is unregulated now, the substance is marketed as safe. People often assume it is safe because it comes from a plant and is not produced through chemical processes. However, any substance that affects the brain must be treated with care. Heroin, oxycodone and other opioids people misuse often dangerously slow breathing and cause other serious risks. It is unknown yet if kratom frequently has this effect on some or what other negative effects it may cause that may go unreported. Despite a gap in official research, the substance does have some reported potential side effects that enough people have experienced to be of concern.
Potential Side Effects of Kratom
Short-term use of kratom may come with some effects that subside when people stop taking it. These are some potential kratom side effects:
- Altered mental state
- Tongue numbness or dry mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Aggression, irritability and anxiety
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Frequent urge to urinate
Also, kratom use or misuse could be linked to high blood pressure, heart attack or abnormal heart rhythm. Some people who have taken kratom have also experienced seizures. Others have experienced liver problems and hypothyroidism that may be linked to kratom use.
Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms
Despite kratom being marketed as safe and not addictive, it can be addictive. This is especially true when people use it as a way to try to avoid addiction treatment. Because of how it affects the brain, it has addiction and abuse potential. Kratom withdrawal can be unpleasant and comes with many potential symptoms. These are some examples of possible kratom withdrawal symptoms:
- Blood pressure or heart rate changes
- Mood swings
- Muscle aches and jerky movement
- Abdominal cramping
- Blurred vision or dilated pupils
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Fever, sweats and hot flashes
- Vomiting or nausea
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Irritability and agitation
- Depression or anxiety
- Restless legs or tremors
Kratom Withdrawal Timeline
Withdrawal from kratom is not considered as dangerous as it is with prescription or illegal opioids. In many cases, it feels like a bad cold. While some people may be told to detox and go through withdrawal at home, they should still be supervised by an addiction specialist. Withdrawing from any substance can come with cravings that lead a person to seek more of the substance or a different and more dangerous one. This is a key reason why supervision is important during the withdrawal timeline.
The kratom withdrawal timeline depends on a few factors. It depends on when the last dose was and how much was taken. Additionally, how long withdrawal lasts and how fast it starts depends on how long a person uses kratom and how much is typically used. Withdrawal symptoms normally start within 12 to 24 hours of the last dose. They could last between a few days and 10 days.
Kratom Detox and Tapering
Tapering involves taking fewer and smaller doses over a certain time. This can be a more effective way to detox from kratom for many people. When a person tapers off kratom instead of stopping it suddenly, the side effects and withdrawal symptoms may be very mild. To taper off safely and effectively, it is important to talk to an addiction specialist who can recommend a schedule. Also, a doctor may be able to provide some supportive medications to ease unpleasant side effects for people who decide to stop taking it without tapering.
Detoxing From Kratom: Home or Facility?
Is it safe to detox at home? There is no specific answer that applies to all people. Some people may be able to detox or taper off kratom at home with only mild effects. However, others with a long addiction history may be better off in a facility. Only a doctor can determine whether a person should be supervised 24/7 in a facility or may safely detox at home. Health care providers consider addiction history, dosing, a person’s other health conditions and relapse risks.
Whether it takes place in a facility or at home, any detox plan should be supervised by a qualified health care provider. For example, with a home detox plan, doctor may simply require a person to schedule a few in-person or virtual visits to check in on how detox is going at home.
Benefits of Medical Detoxification for Kratom
These are the key benefits of working with a medical professional to detox at home or in a facility:
- Customized treatment plan
- Treatment addresses multiple needs
- Professional support
- Reduced relapse risks
- Access to supportive medications
- Assistance in long-term recovery planning
After finishing medical detox, the professionals who supervise patients can help them develop a strategy to stay in recovery. This may involve counseling, group meetings and other treatments. They can also suggest holistic or supportive treatments to help people develop healthier habits and meet friends who are also focused on staying in recovery.
Kratom Withdrawal Medications
There are several medications people may be prescribed during kratom detox at home or in a facility. Some may be less common and recommended for people with special health needs. For example, someone who is prone to seizures or experienced seizures after taking kratom may be prescribed a medication that others would not typically receive. Because the effects of withdrawal can be uncomfortable, medications are usually prescribed to offset the symptoms that cause discomfort. These are some examples of medications that may help with kratom withdrawal:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Sleep aids
People who develop anxiety or depression may be prescribed different types of medications to treat those disorders. Also, some reports have been of people being treated for kratom withdrawal using buprenorphine-naloxone. People with a long history of addiction to opioids before using kratom or chronic pain may need other supportive medications to get through withdrawal and work to overcome addiction.
Long-Term Outlook of Kratom Withdrawal
People who use kratom on a long-term basis can develop tremors, psychosis, more pigmentation in cheeks, weight loss and a loss of appetite. As noted in the earlier section about side effects of kratom use, some of those side effects may linger after withdrawal. Also, some may be permanent. For instance, high blood pressure, kidney or liver damage, cardiac issues, and other physical effects may last a long time or be permanent.
Is Kratom Treatment Covered by Insurance?
Kratom treatment may be covered by insurance. Every insurance plan differs in coverage and the extent of what it covers. However, all marketplace insurance plans are required by law to provide some coverage for addiction treatment that medical professionals deem necessary. A treatment center can look up and discuss any specific insurance plan and its addiction treatment coverage provisions.
Learn More About Treatment for Kratom Withdrawal
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, we are here to connect you with resources. We can give you information about interventions, detox and treatment options in the area. Please contact Long Island Interventions to learn more about kratom addiction treatment.