Does Kratom Addiction Exist? Truths and Myths

Discover the origins, uses, effects, and legality of the different types of kratom. 

what is kratom 

Table of Contents

What is Kratom?

You may have heard of kratom, but you may not know much about it. So what is kratom? Kratom, formally known as mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical tree in the coffee family, found in Southeast Asia—mostly Thailand. In Southeast Asia, people have chewed its leaves or made them into a tea that’s used to fight fatigue and improve work productivity.1

Kratom has medicinal and therapeutic properties, and it has also been traditionally used in religious ceremonies and to treat some medical conditions, sometimes as a substitute for opium. Its leaves contain compounds that have psychotropic effects on those who ingest them.2  

Kratom’s Alkaloid Compounds

Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, or 7-HMG, are the two alkaloids that are mainly responsible for the effects of kratom. In animal studies, mitragynine reduced pain and alleviated coughing in a way that was comparable to codeine, while 7-HMG “was several times more potent analgesic than morphine.”3

You probably will not hear many people referring to kratom as mitragyna speciosa, but you may hear some of its street names, including:

  • Thang
  • Kakuam
  • Herbal speedball
  • Thom
  • Ketum
  • Biak 

What is Kratom Used for?

As mentioned above, kratom is traditionally used in religious ceremonies, but it is also used recreationally and sometimes as a medication to treat pain or opioid addiction. 

Modern Use

There is not sufficient evidence to call kratom a safe drug, but there is limited anecdotal evidence that it is useful in treating many things, including fatigue, chronic pain, and other illnesses. Other ailments kratom may help with include:

  • Acute pain
  • Anxiety
  • Athletic performance
  • Chronic pain
  • Cough
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Sexual problems
  • Stress-relief
  • Opioid withdrawal

Again, it is important to note that kratom has not been approved to treat any of these conditions. More evidence and research are needed to rate the effectiveness of kratom for these uses.

Some people who use kratom for relaxation or stress relief report that because it is plant-based, it is natural and safe. However, the number of active ingredients in kratom plants can vary greatly, making it difficult to gauge the effect and amount of any given dose. Depending on the dosage as well as personal factors, like the health of the user, kratom can be very dangerous. 

Kratom as an Alternative

At one point, researchers thought kratom may be a safe alternative to opioids and other pain medications.4 However, more current studies have demonstrated several safety concerns associated with the drug and no proven health benefits.

In a study testing kratom as an opioid withdrawal treatment, participants, after six months of kratom use, had withdrawal symptoms like opioid withdrawal once they stopped using kratom. This information suggests that kratom is addictive, and quitting the substance may require other opioid addiction treatment medications like naloxone buprenorphine. 

What is Kratom: Pills, Powders, or Leaves?

Kratom Leaves

Since kratom is an herb that comes from the leaves of a tree, it can be consumed in many ways. Traditionally, the leaves were taken straight from the trees in Southeast Asia and chewed, after removing the veins. 

Kratom Powder

More recently, the preferred method of ingesting kratom is by drying the leaves and crushing up the herb into a fine powder that can be swallowed. The powder can be taken directly, using a “toss and wash” method where the user puts a spoonful of kratom powder in their mouth before washing it down with liquid. 

Kratom Capsules and Kratom Beverages

Kratom can also be put into capsules, added to tea bags to create a tea, or stirred into any liquid. Orange juice is a preferred method to disguise the strong, earthy flavor of kratom, and some users report that mixing it with orange juice activates its properties more quickly and provides heightened effects.

Kratom can also be turned into resins and liquid kratom tinctures, which are sometimes preferred by users because they tend to be stronger in extract or tincture form.

To summarize, kratom can be used in several forms, including:

  • Kratom capsules or kratom pills
  • Tea powder
  • Leaves
  • Resins
  • Liquid kratom tinctures 

Different Types of Kratom Strains

There are several types of kratom, each one reportedly providing different effects from the next. While there is only one species of the kratom tree (mitragyna speciosa), there are several methods of cultivating, harvesting, and processing the plant.

These different techniques yield leaf veins that vary in color, and thus, the strains of kratom are distinguished by the color of the vein found on the kratom leaf. 

White Vein Kratom

This strain of kratom is a popular choice. While many strains of kratom are known to have a sedating effect, white vein kratom is more “uplifting,” giving users a sense of motivation and tranquility.5 It is therefore considered a “daytime strain” as it gives users effects like wakefulness and focus, like the effects of caffeine. 

Red Vein Kratom

Red vein kratom is one of the most sought-after strains. It gives users a sense of relaxation and optimism, with potentially enhanced mood. It relaxes the body physically and can calm the mind. It can give a feeling of sedation as well, leading users to prefer to use it at night. 

Green Vein Kratom

Green vein kratom can be seen as the middle ground between white and red vein kratom. While white vein kratom is known to be uplifting and energizing, the red vein can be sedating. The green vein can have properties of both red and white veins, with some users reporting improved focus, while others report a sense of physical relaxation. 

Yellow Vein Kratom

Some users report that yellow vein kratom is the highest quality kratom available, with its effects lasting longer than the other strains and the effects being more balanced. 

Kratom vs. CBD

Some people may think that kratom sounds a lot like another popular drug—CBD. Despite the similarities between the two substances, they are quite different. First and foremost, CBD has been tested and researched much more than kratom and is thus considered safer to use. Additionally, CBD is not psychoactive and will not produce a high, whereas kratom does produce a high.

Similarities

Similarities between CBD and kratom include that:

  • Both can relieve feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Both come from plants, and both are edible herbs
  • Both are legal, although kratom is unregulated and remains illegal in some states 

Differences

Differences between CBD and kratom include that:

  • CBD contains cannabinoids, while kratom contains alkaloids
  • CBD interacts with the ECS of the body, while kratom acts on the opioid receptors
  • You cannot overdose on CBD, while you can overdose on kratom
  • Studies verify CBD’s stress-relieving properties, while no research supports the same for kratom
  • CBD does not disrupt the sleeping schedule or appetite, while kratom can disrupt sleep and reduce hunger
  • CBD has no psychotropic effects, while kratom contains a high amount of psychotropic ingredients (making it potentially addictive)

Overall, CBD is the better choice for treating anxiety and depression, since studies have proven it to be beneficial in treating those conditions. It also has fewer side effects and potential issues when compared to kratom. 

Kratom: What is its Legality?

In the United States, kratom is not federally regulated, meaning no government body checks the safety or quality of kratom products. Because of its potentially harmful effects and addictive properties, the DEA has considered labeling kratom a controlled substance. On the other hand, the American Kratom Association is actively fighting to keep kratom legal and advocates for its benefits.

Kratom is federally legal, but some states have chosen to ban the substance, meaning it is illegal to grow, sell, possess, or use it. Those states include:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin 

Is There a Such Thing as Kratom Addiction?

Although many believe that kratom has the potential to be addictive, there is no current determination of whether it is possible to have a kratom addiction. However, like other drugs with opioid effects, kratom use may lead to dependence.7

This aspect means that some users may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using kratom. Some withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Emotional changes
  • Jerky movements 

Effects of Kratom

What is kratom like? At lower doses, kratom acts as a stimulant, making users feel more energetic. At higher kratom dosages, it reduces pain and may have euphoric effects. At very high doses, it acts as a sedative, making users quiet and often sleepy. 

Negative Kratom Effects

Some of the common positive short-term kratom effects include improved focus, sociability, and relaxation of mind and body. However, there are a host of negative short-term effects associated with kratom use, including:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased urination

On top of the negative short-term effects, there are also negative long term health risks associated with kratom use, such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Potential kratom addiction
  • Insomnia
  • Skin hyperpigmentation

The long-term effects of the drug haven’t been thoroughly studied, so the real extent of side effects associated with long-term use is largely unknown. 

How Long Does Kratom Stay in Your System?

When someone takes kratom, it typically stays in the system for up to five days. Evidence suggests that someone who uses kratom less frequently would have it cleared from their system more quickly. Additionally, age, body fat percentage, and genetics can factor into how long kratom stays in the system. However, it does not show up on typical drug tests, though one can be tested for blood-mitragynine concentration. 

Treatment for Kratom Addiction

Although there is no definitive answer of whether kratom is addictive, if it harms the user’s life, treatment may be necessary. Like other drug addictions, several options can be effective for breaking a drug habit.

Treatment typically begins with physical stabilization, which may include an inpatient detoxification period. Therapy and counseling often come into play after physical stability is achieved, and these treatments can help a person receive supportive care to help them recover from addiction. 

Resources

If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
(888) 744-9969 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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