Mitragyna speciosa, otherwise known as kratom, among other names, is a tropical plant native to Southeast Asia, and is related to the coffee plant. It has a long history for medicinal use, and has gained popularity globally for its properties that are similar to opiates.
Kratom has pain relieving properties, as well as euphoric and hallucinogenic potential. It’s also been suggested that it can help with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. It’s frequently marketed as a dietary supplement.
Because it’s plant-based and widely available, many people assume that kratom is safe. While advocates report its beneficial properties, others say there is a potential for addiction. Learn more about kratom, including whether or not it is safe in treating opioid addiction.
Is Kratom Addictive?
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) states that kratom consumption can lead to addiction. Any substance that alters the brain’s chemistry has a potential for abuse. Kratom contains two compounds, mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine, that act on opioid receptors. In low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant. In higher doses, it reduces pain and produces euphoric effects.
Like other opioids, kratom may cause dependence, meaning that users experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the substance. People may also experience cravings for kratom just like other opioids.
Health Effects of Kratom
In addition to the potential for addiction, there are other reported negative effects of kratom use, some of which can be dangerous:
- Mood disturbances
Other effects may occur if kratom is taken with other supplements or substances. Some reports have cited abnormal brain function when kratom is taken with prescription drugs.
Is Kratom Legal?
Currently, kratom legality varies across the United States. It is legal at the federal level, but some states, counties, and cities have banned it.
Kratom is a drug of concern for the DEA. In fact, the DEA previously wanted to temporarily classify it as a Schedule I Drug, but then withdrew its decision. It is not currently listed as a controlled substance but is listed as a drug of concern.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not approve any use of kratom, including kratom for medicinal purposes. A lack of regulation has likely led to increased availability of kratom in the US.
Is Kratom Safe for Treating Opioid Withdrawal?
While kratom is natural, it may not be safe. Its production is not regulated by the FDA. In addition, there is not enough evidence or scientific research to demonstrate it is safe and effective in treating opioid withdrawal.
If you or someone you know is using kratom for withdrawal symptoms, there are safe, evidence-based options, including medical detox and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
Substances used in MAT, including buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone, are approved by the FDA. Several other organizations, including the FDA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and World Health Organization, endorse MAT as an effective treatment for opioid addiction.
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