If you read some pro-drug forums, you might get the impression that Kratom is a wonderful substance, that can be all things to all people. One of the first sites I found, when I entered the drug name into the Google search bar, offered a handy user guide. The article from the site stated “Kratom is not habit-forming when it is used responsibly. If used occasionally as a recreational drug, rather than daily, there is virtually no risk of becoming dependent on it”. Another section says that “health problems are unlikely unless one is consuming large quantities of Kratom every day”. This stuff sounds pretty mild. There are more warnings listed on an aspirin bottle.
What is it?
Kratom is a medicinal plant that is grown in Southeast Asia with Thailand and Malaysia being the main harvesting areas. Kratom, is in the same family as coffee and the psychoactive plant Psychotria viridis. It is processed in a similar fashion to cannabis— the leaves are dried and then made into a powder or oily resin. Kratom has been around for nearly 10 years, but only in the last year or two has it attracted widespread attention. Common names include Kratom, Ketum, Kakuam, Ithang and Thom.
Kratom powder or leaves can be made into a tea preparation, placed in capsules for oral ingestion or smoked. The high can last two to three hours and is dose dependent (three to five grams of crushed Kratom leaf or a half teaspoon of Kratom 15X powdered extract). The latest trend – people are starting to snort it.
Kratom has been described as producing both stimulant and sedative effects. At low doses, it produces stimulant effects, with users reporting increased alertness, physical energy, talkativeness and sociable behavior. At high doses, opiate effects are produced, in addition to sedative and euphoric effects. Effects occur within 5 to 10 minutes after ingestion and last for 2 to 5 hours. Acute side effects include nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination, and loss of appetite.
According to the DEA, Kratom consumption can lead to addiction. In a study of Thai Kratom addicts, it was observed that some addicts chewed Kratom daily for 3 to 30 years (mean of 18.6 years). Long-term use of Kratom produced anorexia, weight loss, insomnia, skin darkening, dry mouth, frequent urination, and constipation. A withdrawal syndrome was observed, consisting of symptoms of hostility, aggression, emotional lability, wet nose, achy muscles and bones, and jerky movement of the limbs. Furthermore, several cases of Kratom psychosis were observed, where Kratom addicts exhibited psychotic symptoms that included hallucinations, delusion and confusion.
This does not sound like a wonder drug anymore – does it?
Marketing and control are a significant issue with Kratom:
- Kratom is considered a dietary supplement.
- It is not a controlled substance; it is legal to possess.
- Kratom is exhibitive of an emerging trend that bypasses modern toxicological monitoring.
- With the emergence of K2 (Spice) and bath salts as drugs of abuse, Kratom’s popularity has surged.
- It is reported to help the withdrawal process of people addicted to opioids.
Is Kratom Addictive?
Yes it is addictive, but to what extent, it is hard to tell. There is not a lot of research out (as of yet). I found a personal account, from Addiction Blog.
My experience has been that daily use over a period of a month or so will cause psychological dependence. After over six months of Kratom use, you will find that physical dependence also kicks in. This varies, of course, to what form of Kratom you are using and the method of administration. Strains of UEI (Ultra Enhanced Indonesian), for example, will get you addicted far faster and harder than, let’s say, dried leaf. Additionally, although some people try to snort Kratom, the administration is not as effective as when you swallow a capsule or drink Kratom as a tea. But to know whether you have developed physical dependence to Kratom, try to lower doses or cut out Kratom from your life. Withdrawal symptoms generally appear when you attempt to lower doses or cut out Kratom completely.
Kratom withdrawal symptoms, which are similar to what one would experience when withdrawing from opiate painkillers, can include:
- Restlessness and insomnia
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Muscle cramps
- Stomach pain
- Generalized pain/aches.
Who knows, if this substance will become banned or not. For now it is easily found, and comes in some very lively designed packages – bought online or at smoke shops. My advice is that anyone with an addictive personality should stay far away from this substance. And overall, the daily heavy user should beware.