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Kratom has emerged as a popular herbal supplement promoted for its mild stimulant and pain-relieving properties.
Found naturally in Southeast Asia, it contains alkaloids that bind to opioid receptors in the brain to produce both relaxing and energizing effects when consumed.
While generally considered less harmful than prescription opioids by users, kratom’s addiction potential remains an important concern as its availability and popularity have expanded rapidly in North America and Europe in recent years.
This article explores whether kratom is addictive, the major signs and withdrawal symptoms of kratom addiction, and kratom addiction timelines and risks.
The goal is to provide objective information to make mindful choices, as well as recognize warning signs of problematic use early when changing course is still impactful.
What is Kratom?
Kratom comes from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree, which is indigenous to Southeast Asia.
It has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries by native populations for its stimulant and analgesic effects.
According to neurobiological research, kratom owes these properties to compounds in its leaves called mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine, which are opioid receptor agonists.
Specifically, mitragynine and its metabolite 7-hydroxy mitragynine are partial agonists of mu-opioid receptors in the brain.
This means they bind to and activate opioid receptors but with about 10 times less potency than a full agonist like morphine.
By partially stimulating the endogenous opioid system, kratom can provide both energizing as well as relaxing, and pain-relieving effects depending on the dose consumed.
Traditionally, kratom leaves were either chewed fresh or dried and brewed as tea for relief of symptoms like fatigue, pain, and diarrhea.
In Western cultures, it is primarily ingested via capsules, tablets, powder mixed into drinks or food, or concentrated liquid tinctures.
When used responsibly for therapeutic purposes, it offers a natural alternative to prescription opioids for some individuals.
Can You Develop A Kratom Addiction?
While kratom addiction is not believed to be common, it is possible given the plant’s active compounds can partially activate opioid receptors in the brain.
Mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine bind to the same receptors that are targeted by addictive opioids.
This connection gives kratom inherent risks for developing dependence with prolonged, heavy usage.
Additionally, psychological factors likely also play a role in kratom addiction.
Consuming it can become ingrained as a daily habit or ritual that is personally rewarding.
Ceasing this routine could induce distressing feelings if a psychological dependence has formed.
A case study illustrates the risks associated with Kratom addiction.
A 38-year-old woman, previously dealing with major depressive disorder and opioid use disorder, transitioned from suboxone to kratom for her treatment.
Consuming large quantities daily, she faced a breaking point that culminated in an overdose.
Hospitalized, she exhibited classic kratom withdrawal symptoms, reinforcing the potential severity of kratom addiction.
Withdrawal from kratom, whether physical or psychological, can manifest in various ways, including mood swings, anxiety, depression, headaches, fatigue, and nausea.
Tolerance builds up rapidly, necessitating higher doses to achieve the same desired effects. Reliance on kratom leads to it dominating one’s thoughts.
The stimulant nature of kratom further contributes to a crash experienced when its consumption is abruptly halted.
Withdrawal symptoms typically persist for a few weeks, with subsequent recovery.
Individuals using kratom over an extended period, in Southeast Asia or Western regions, have also been noted to develop tolerance, necessitating increasing doses for desired effects.
In some cases, long-term users show compulsive drug-taking behavior, finding it challenging to stop intake despite facing adverse consequences from their substance use.
Signs of Kratom Addiction
Behaviorally, addiction to kratom means prioritizing its use daily and spending excessive time and money seeking out new supplies.
Addicts continue its use, despite clear social or legal problems brought on by their habit.
They frequently cut themselves off from friends and family or lie about the extent of their kratom consumption.
Relapse is highly likely even after periods of abstinence due to the powerful withdrawal.
There are several physical signs as well that may indicate addiction to kratom.
Long-term addicts also develop sun sensitivity or skin rashes on the face due to kratom’s stimulant properties.
Digestive issues are also common, with many users experiencing constipation, diarrhea, or other stomach problems.
Individuals addicted to kratom may have increased sweating episodes and feel fatigued more easily.
They also tend to display changes in appetite and suffer from weight loss over time. Excessive urination is another red flag as dehydration can become an issue.
The mental effects of kratom addiction include hallucinations, confusion, or delusions when trying to cut back on usage.
Strong cravings and urges to take more kratom are also present.
How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted To Kratom?
While some individual case reports and anecdotal experiences from users provide clues, there has been no comprehensive research study to accurately assess how soon kratom addiction may set in.
Addiction science is complex, and development timelines can vary greatly depending on the individual and their unique risk factors.
Not everyone who uses kratom recreationally will necessarily become addicted.
However, frequent or long-term abuse places one at higher risk compared to occasional use.
Genetics, mental health, and personal history with other substances appear to impact vulnerabilities, though more research is still needed.
Genetics play a role, as a family history of substance abuse disorders can impact one’s inherent risks.
Individuals with pre-existing mental health issues like depression or anxiety may also find it harder to use kratom casually without consequences.
Abuse is really the first step on the path toward problematic use and addiction over time.
Repeated misuse often leads to needing higher amounts to feel the initial effects, due to the development of tolerance.
While medical studies are still limited, anecdotal reports from users suggest kratom’s psychological and physical dependence can materialize rather rapidly if taken excessively on a regular schedule.
Once addicted, kratom takes over thoughts and behaviors. People under its influence may feel they cannot function normally without their regular doses.
At this stage, discontinuation results in uncomfortable and potentially severe withdrawal symptoms.
Attempts to cut down or stop often end unsuccessfully without treatment support.
Rather than guessing how long it may take before becoming addicted in any one case, prevention is truly the safest approach.
Occasional, non-escalating use may not pose serious risks for some.
But for others, even short-term misuse could have long-lasting consequences on health, relationships, and quality of life.
Ultimately, education and responsible decision-making around kratom are important given the currently limited scientific insight.
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Kratom Use
Kratom, depending on the dosage, can yield diverse effects on both a short-term and long-term basis.
In smaller doses, typically up to a few grams, Kratom acts as a stimulant, offering increased energy, heightened libido, alertness, a sense of calmness, euphoria, and an inclination toward social interaction.
However, at higher doses, ranging from 10 to 25 grams, Kratom’s effects resemble those of familiar opioids, resulting in pain relief, and alleviation of depression and anxiety.
It may also cause undesirable effects like nausea, loss of appetite, constipation, sensitivity to sunburn, itchiness, sweating, insomnia, tremors, and hallucinations.
The severity of long-term side effects is influenced by various factors, including the frequency and quantity of Kratom use.
Prolonged usage of Kratom has been associated with side effects such as diminished appetite, constipation, significant weight loss, insomnia, and discoloration in the cheeks.
Is Kratom Legal to Use?
The legal status of kratom varies across regions. Kratom is prohibited in five states within the United States, including Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, along with specific cities.
Federally, kratom is legal, but it is marked as a “Drug of Concern” by the FDA.
Outside the U.S., kratom is illegal in several countries, such as Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Romania, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, Australia, and California.
Despite its legal status in the United States, Kratom is easily accessible online, in smoke shops, and even at various filling stations.
Kratom does not typically register on standard drug tests, which commonly screen for amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates, and PCP. A specific test is required to detect Kratom use.
However, it’s important to be aware that Kratom can sometimes trigger false positives in opioid drug tests, especially when combined with certain supplements and medications.
Additionally, there have been instances where kratom is mistakenly identified as methadone.
As such, understanding the legal implications is essential for those considering or currently using Kratom.
Kratom Addiction Treatment
There are several options available for individuals seeking treatment for kratom addiction:
1. Detoxification: A supervised medical detox is typically the first step to eliminate kratom from the physical system.
Medications may be used to ease uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
2. Inpatient Rehabilitation: An inpatient or residential program provides 24/7 support, therapy, and medical monitoring.
This is ideal for persons with more severe addictions or co-occurring disorders.
3. Outpatient Treatment: Less intensive outpatient programs allow people to live at home but attend regular counseling sessions and group meetings.
It works for those with stronger support systems.
4. Support Groups: 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Smart Recovery offer community reinforcement and accountability.
Regular meeting attendance aids long-term recovery.
5. Individual Therapy: Counseling from an addiction specialist helps address any underlying issues, develop relapse prevention strategies, and improve coping mechanisms.
6. Medications: Some people benefit from medications like suboxone to help manage cravings and symptoms until their brain adjusts during withdrawal and early recovery.
Most successful rehabilitation involves a holistic approach addressing the physical, mental, and social aspects of addiction.
Ongoing aftercare and lifestyle changes are key once formal treatment ends to maintain recovery progress.
In conclusion, while kratom is commonly used casually by many without issue, the potential for developing dependence and addiction is real when it is chronically abused or misused.
As with other substances, individual risk profiles play a role in vulnerability and how quickly problematic usage patterns may emerge.
Unfortunately, the lack of extensive scientific research makes it difficult to state definitive answers regarding average timelines for addiction.
Anecdotal reports suggest signs sometimes present within a few months for heavy, daily kratom abusers. But more investigation is still required.
What is clear is that continued, frequent intake can change the brain and body in ways that enhance cravings and diminish self-control over time.
For those predisposed due to genetics or mental health, this risky downward spiral may happen faster.
1. How Long Does Kratom Stay In Your System?
For the majority of individuals, it takes approximately five to six days for the substance to be eliminated from their systems. After this period, Kratom becomes undetectable in saliva and blood. In urine, traces may persist a bit longer, up to seven days.
2. Can Kratom cause withdrawal symptoms?
Yes, individuals with Kratom dependency may experience withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing use. Symptoms can include mood changes, anxiety, depression, headaches, fatigue, and nausea.
3. Can Kratom be used responsibly without the risk of addiction?
Responsible Kratom use involves understanding dosage, frequency, and potential risks. It’s advisable to consult with healthcare professionals to ensure safe and informed consumption.
4. What should I do if I suspect someone is struggling with Kratom addiction?
If you suspect someone is facing Kratom addiction, encourage them to seek professional help. Supportive conversations and assistance in connecting with healthcare resources can be beneficial.