What is Kratom?

Kratom is a plant found the in tropical regions of East Asia, in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Its leaves are consumed for mind-alternating effect in the US. In South East Asia, it has been part of various natural remedies and even used as a spice for ages. In recent years, its use in the US has risen.

At the lower doses, kratom is a stimulant, and at higher doses, it has opioid-like properties. Thus, at a lower dose of fewer than five grams, it will reduce appetite, boost energy levels, increase sociability, and libido. At moderate doses of five to fifteen gram, it is suggested that it may help with pain, reduce anxiety, suppress cough, and may provide relief from opioid withdrawal symptoms.  (It is important to note, however, that the FDA. has approved none of these benefits)

It is true that the FDA  has banned using Kratom in dietary supplements and issued a warning against its recreational use. However, one cannot conclude much from FDA statement as its advisory is primarily against its recreational use. FDA has not done any studies regarding its role in opioid withdrawal treatment or other medical purposes. 

Of historical significance CBD oil was banned for almost a century by the FDA.

Can you Overdose on Kratom?

There are very few reported cases of deaths due to Kratom. Even in few cases when severe complications occurred, people are known to have mixed Kratom with other more potent substances. It will be safe to say that overdosing is a rare thing, and life-threatening effects are perhaps infrequent and typically occur when mixed with other drugs. 

Health Effects of Kratom

How any mind-altering substance will affect a person at different doses is difficult to predict. Just take alcohol, for instance, which is a depressant, but at lower dosages, it causes excitement and increases the level of energy as it suppresses inhibitory neurons first. At higher doses, it causes drowsiness and discoordination.

Kratom leaves have substances similar to opioids. Two such phytocompounds in its leaves, mitragynine, and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine are now known to act on opioid receptors in the brain. This leads to pain relief and the sensation of pleasure. At higher doses, it may cause various unpleasant effects.

Kratoms Health Effects

It is suggested that kratom is safe when taken at the commonly recommended dose of one to five gram. At this dose, it has a stimulant effect. However, some side effects may occur even at lower doses like dilation of pupils, facial redness, agitation, and anxiety. Some people may report loss of appetite, nausea, and increased urination.

At a dosage of five to fifteen-gram Kratom may work differently. At moderate doses, its depressive effect on the brain starts to dominate. Consequently, this results in very different effects and adverse effects. Thus, at moderate doses, it may cause tachycardia (fast beating of the heart), opioid-like side effects like dizziness, constipation, fall in blood pressure, sweating, and dry mouth.

Side effects of Kratom

Prolonged or frequent use may cause very different kind of side effects like chronic eating disorders, weight loss, tremors, seizures, personality changes, and even psychosis.

Serious toxicity with Kratom is rare but reported. CDC or other US agencies have reported only a few hundred cases of severe toxicities, and in most cases, the person was using other drugs like antidepressants, opioids, or street drugs. Therefore, it is challenging to say how much of those toxic events were due solely to Kratom, but it appears that overdoses are rare.

Respiratory depression is one of the major complications with opioids. However, it is not clear whether Kratom will have much effect on respiration or not. It is a poorly studied natural compound. Most literature does not report any severe respiratory depression caused by it.

Liver damage is rare with Kratom and seems to be related to individual sensitivities. In some people, it may cause acute liver disease due to cholestasis or slowing down the movement of bile. Modern science does not know the reason for such side effects in a few people. Acute liver injury may present as severe fatigue, nausea, itching, and yellowing of the skin (jaundice).

Death is rare with Kratom, but a possibility. It is possible that in the future more people may report severe side effects and hospitalization as Kratom abuse increases in the US. When taken at high and toxic doses it may cause liver toxicity, convulsions, and even coma and death.

Is Kratom Addictive?

Unlike synthetic drugs, Kratom has a lower potential for addiction, but it does exist. With frequent use, most people may get addicted to it. The mechanism involved in its addiction is very similar to that in opioid addiction. Those addicted to Kratom, quite like opioid addicts, become tolerant to its effect and require increasing doses to feel the same effects. Some people may experience difficulting controlling or stopping use.  

In those addicted to Kratom, symptoms of withdrawal will be quite similar to that of opioid withdrawal. Studies suggest that addiction arises in most cases when it is taken continuously for about six months.

Typical symptoms on withdrawal include increased sweating, irritability, high blood pressure, nausea, diarrhea, runny nose, joint and muscle aches, insomnia, and intense cravings

To conclude, Kratom seems to be quite a safe substance especially when taken at lower doses. It is suggested to play a role in the treatment of opioid withdrawal, however, as with any substance dosage is the key. It is, however, not without side effects and potentially fatal.  On exceeding doses, side effects may outweigh the benefits. 

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