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Kratom Addiction: Legal, Habit-Forming, & Deadly

Kratom addiction comes from one of the newest drugs to hit the scene today. It can create both stimulant and opioid-like effects in users and, to make this drug even more dangerous, it’s technically legal as well.

Despite its legality, addiction to kratom can have a number of very serious health effects, some of which may even end up being permanent. As such, it’s critical that you know the ins and outs of this frightening new drug as well as what a kratom addiction really entails.

What Is Kratom Anyway?

The first step to tackling your kratom addiction is understanding a bit more about what kratom really is.

Kratom as a substance of abuse is the ground up leaves of the kratom tree, technically known as Mitragyna speciosa. The plant is natively found in both Africa and Southeast Asia and has a long history of being used ceremoniously across the region.

These leaves were also chewed by manual laborers and seamen in order to reduce fatigue. Today, however, users can purchase the drug in the form of pills, powders, liquids, resins, and crushed leaves to brew into a tea.

Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitra-gynine (7-HMG) are thought to be the main active ingredients of kratom according to U.S. Pharmacist, compounds which have been shown to interact with the brain’s opioid receptors.

While this drug may produce a number of mild yet enjoyable effects, continued use can and often will lead to addiction which may end up being debilitating.

Is Kratom Illegal?

Kratom is in a bit of a grey area when it comes to legality right now.

Kratom Addiction: Legal, Habit-Forming, & Deadly

Although the Food & Drug Administration officially states that kratom should not be used due to safety concerns, many manufacturers have skirted legal repercussions by labeling their products “not for human consumption.”

So while the drug is technically legal, it is illegal for it to be sold explicitly for eating, drinking, or ingesting in any way.

In fact, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) attempted to ban the drug outright in a 2016 emergency scheduling session, an act that would have placed it in the same category as such substances as heroin, LSD, and gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid, a.k.a. GHB. Public outcry, however, forced the agency to table the measure temporarily.

Immediate Effects of Kratom

Kratom is unique in that it can cause seemingly contradictory side effects depending on the dose taken. Lower doses, for example, tend to produce the effects similar to stimulants. Think amphetamines like Adderall rather than street drugs like the infamous methamphetamine.

These effects may include:
  • Enhanced motivation
  • Feeling more energized and alert
  • Improved self-confidence
  • Euphoria

Higher doses, on the other hand, tend to produce effects more closely related to opioids like OxyContin, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids as well as heroin.

Some of the most noticeable effects may include:
  • Pain reduction
  • Calmness and tranquility
  • Sedation and sleepiness
  • Euphoria

The exact kratom dosage required to experience each is highly variable and depends on individual body type, potency of the kratom, and other ingredients used in the supplement. However, generally 1 to 5 grams will bring on stimulant effects while higher levels will lead to opioid effects.

Is Kratom Addictive?

Like other drugs that directly affect and activate the opioid receptors in the brain (like fentanyl, OxyContin, and heroin), kratom can become addictive.

Continued use of any addictive substance usually leads to physical changes in the body and brain. Certain receptors, for instance, may die off in high numbers in order to reduce the intensity of the drug’s effects. The brain may also boost production of chemicals that counteract the changes brought about by addictive substances.

What’s important to remember here is that continued kratom abuse leads to physical changes in the brain, making it difficult if not impossible to function normally without it.

One of the hallmarks of addiction is building up a physical dependency to the drug, usually indicated by the presence of withdrawal symptoms when the substance is removed from the system.

Some of these symptoms after continued habitual use of kratom according to NIDA include:
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Emotional changes
  • Runny nose
  • Jerky movements

While these symptoms aren’t usually fatal, detoxing from kratom can be an uncomfortable process. As such, partnering with a detox specialist is by far the safest and most effective way to kick your kratom habit.

Are You Addicted to Kratom?

Spotting the signs of addiction in especially close loved ones like your spouse may be relatively easy. You notice behavioral changes, different hygienic habits, physical indicators of abuse, or maybe you’ve even found their paraphernalia laying around the house at times.

Addiction is an all-consuming disease after all, and if you take the time to really look at these changes, you’ll generally know when it’s time to seek help.

But when you’re trying to determine if you yourself have an addiction to kratom, the situation gets a bit trickier. For an addict, the mind is physically altered to reward drug-seeking behaviors. And since this reward system is so intricately linked to our behavior, many habitual drug users will unknowingly make excuses for their addictive behaviors.

I’m especially stressed out at work this month and need something extra to calm me down.

I’ve been having a hard time sleeping and if I don’t take kratom I’ll be up all night.

My friends all use far more kratom than I do so that means I definitely don’t have a problem.

These are just some of the most common thought processes that you may unknowingly use to convince yourself that your addictive behaviors are permissible. But the truth is, you’re likely just lying to yourself in order to continue abusing kratom.

It’s best, then, to take an objective look at your actions and behaviors in order to determine your level of addiction rather than relying on gut feel and intuition. One of the quickest and easiest ways to do that is by taking a short online addiction quiz.

Not only will this quiz help give you the insight you need to see your addiction for what it really is, it’s also incredibly simple to use and only requires a few minutes of your time.

While a quick overview of your addictive behaviors using the quiz above is certainly one of the simplest ways of determining addiction, there are a number of other assessment measures available for a more in-depth look at your kratom use disorder.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides a comprehensive collection of these assessment tools, which range in complexity from just a few simple questions to detailed examinations that can take far longer to complete.

You can also use the guidelines put forth by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) to see if your patterns of behavior qualify as an addiction rather than abuse.

The DSM-V guidelines, reproduced by NIDA, are especially helpful in determining substance use disorders because they are in fact the exact criteria used by many practicing physicians and psychiatrists around the country today. It doesn’t get much more official than that.

Ultimately, you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips to help you start looking at your behaviors objectively and comprehensively. And while these assessments will surely point you in the right direction no matter what your level of addiction is, it’s important to note that the best source of a true diagnosis comes from a consultation with a physician or other addiction specialist.

Short- & Long-Term Kratom Side Effects to Watch Out For

In addition to the pleasurable short-term side effects of abusing kratom, there are a few other health impacts to be aware of as well.

The most common short-term physical side effects include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Heightened heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Flushing
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Itching

What’s more, it is in fact possible to overdose on kratom. In fact, the number of calls to poison centers involving the drug have spiked in recent years and numerous deaths have been directly associated with the drug.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, continued kratom abuse can bring with it a number of pretty nasty long-term side effects. Some of the most common include:

  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Skin darkening
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation

What’s more, there’s also the risk of developing a serious addiction to the drug, the consequences of which can be life-altering behavior changes and all the physical changes in both the brain and body that come with it.

The Hidden Dangers of Kratom

One of the most common questions asked about this new substance of abuse is “Is kratom dangerous?” And while there is still an enormous amount of research that still needs to be done on the subject, the official stance of regulatory agencies in the United States is that kratom use can in fact be hazardous to your health.

As recently as November 2017, the Food and Drug Administration has argued that kratom is currently associated with at least 36 deaths around the country. What’s more, the Washington Post reports that according to Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, said that:

Calls to U.S. poison control centers involving kratom increased tenfold between 2010 and 2015, and that the herb is associated with side effects including seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms.

Though the exact mechanisms of fatal interactions with the body are still unclear, researchers hypothesize that kratom may be incredibly dangerous when interacting with other drugs such as tramadol, a powerful opiate.

When the respiratory sedation that each of these drugs causes is combined, the effects may end up causing a dangerous slowdown of breathing and eventually lead to coma or death.

What’s more, there is still an enormous amount of study that needs to be done on kratom given that it is so new to the drug scene. As such, kratom may cause a wide variety of other dangerous effects when combined with other drugs that have yet to be discovered.

The takeaway here is that we don’t fully know just how dangerous kratom addiction really is. So best to stay clear of it altogether.

Other Kratom Health Risks: A Lack of Regulation

Another especially dangerous aspect of kratom abuse comes from the fact that it is an entirely unregulated herbal supplement. While still technically legal, kratom is not cleared for human consumption by the FDA. As such, there are no guidelines under which the product is controlled.

59%

Herbal supplements in general have a history of containing a wide variety of ingredients, many of which are not listed on the bottle. For instance, one study found that a shocking number of herbal products (59%) contained unlisted ingredients.

68%

Beyond that, one third of these products contained contaminants and fillers while 68% substituted the main active ingredient for another product entirely.

17%

Only about 17% of the surveyed products had accurate labels in fact.

Part of the problem is undoubtedly that kratom may be mixed and packaged with a number of other harmful substances (similar to how street drugs like heroin are cut with other drugs).

However, another problem here is that determining the interactions between kratom and other substances is made all the more difficult when the exact ingredients of the product aren’t listed and may even be outright lied about.

Until this substance is properly regulated, kratom will remain a mixed bag of potentially lethal consequences.

Addiction to Kratom: Legal, Habit-Forming, & Deadly

Kratom is one of many legal drugs on the market today that many people claim is entirely safe to use. However, research has shown that abusing kratom can lead to a number of serious side effects such as liver damage, seizures, coma, and even death.

So even though this drug may be in a lawful grey area today, becoming addicted to kratom can end up ruining your life. As such, if you or anyone you know is addicted to this dangerous drug, it’s crucial to get the professional help needed to kick the habit for good.

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