Kratom or Mitragyna Speciosa is a deciduous tree native to Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Borneo. The leaves of the tree have been used for ages as a herbal remedy and medicinal compound. Enthusiasts say the herb can offer relief from anxiety, pain and restlessness. It’s also said to possess mood-enhancing properties and possibly improve some cognitive function. Some scientists believe kratom may be effective at treating chronic pain as well as combating opiate addiction.
Kratom is popular among people who wish to experience the above-named benefits and experiences and can be bought online or in local stores with relative ease. It is often regarded as a godsend to those with chronic pain and/or opiate dependency and is used primarily as a medicine. However, some folks use the herb recreationally due to its euphoric effects. This type of usage is generally regarded as abusive and is the main culprit for problems with dependence, addiction, withdrawal and other side effects.
These occurrences have led some to the revelation that kratom is indeed addictive by nature. This article seeks to explore issues of kratom addiction and possible withdrawal symptoms to help you determine how high the risks really are.
Let’s first define what addiction is and look at what causes it. Addiction is simply “the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.” This seems obvious — but why do people allow themselves to become addicted to something?
When you consume a mind-altering substance such as kratom, your brain’s natural chemistry is altered. Feelings of pleasure or euphoria generally accompany this alteration, but the feelings are always fleeting. Some may want to sustain this sensation so they use the substance again — and again. The more and more times something is used without adequate down-time, the higher the risk of dependency and addiction.
Without taking appropriate breaks between usage, the brain learns to expect the presence of the substance and begins changing its natural composition. Once the body begins to crave the substance, dependency sets in and withdrawal symptoms are soon to follow if you try to stop. Keep in mind that some substances are more addictive than others and the severity of the withdrawal symptoms vary a lot.
Generally, addiction symptoms will differ from person to person, but the condition is mainly characterized by having a strong feeling of ‘needing’ the substance in order to carry out daily activities. Stopping usage of the drug is often followed by psychological distress which can elicit both physical and psychological symptoms.
Common symptoms of addiction include:
• Decreased productivity at school or work
• Increased risk-taking behavior
• Increased secrecy and social withdrawal
• Decreased interest in recreational, social and other meaningful activities
• Inability to stop drug usage despite various attempts
• Unexplained mood swings and sudden personality shift
• Changes in eating and sleeping habits
• Drug tolerance, dependency and withdrawal symptoms
• Irritability or anxiety when the drug is not available
Note: The risk of dependency is increased with higher doses, extended abuse of the substance, an underlying medical or mental condition, chronic stress, genetic contributors or a history of addiction.
Is Kratom Addictive?
Now that you know what addiction is and how it works, you are probably realizing that an endless number of things have the potential to be addictive in life. Battling addiction is a matter of self-discipline and not necessarily dependent upon the vice itself, although heroin is surely more addictive than coffee. It’s important to understand that while someone can become addicted to kratom, dependence forms over a prolonged period of time. Moreover, not everyone who uses kratom becomes dependent or addicted to it — far from it actually, as most people have no problem using the herb responsibly. Frequent or heavy use is the primary cause for negative effects.
As earlier mentioned, there is an alteration in the brain chemistry when one starts using kratom. Kratom specifically affects opioid receptors in the brain and acts as a CNS depressant. This explains why kratom can cause a rush of pleasure or euphoria when taken. With habitual kratom consumption, the brain’s chemistry comes to expect these alterations. This can lead to dependency issues over time. Kratom dependence is not the same as Kratom addiction, although dependence is one of the addiction symptoms.
Since kratom interacts with opioid receptors in the brain, the withdrawal symptoms of kratom can seem similar to those of opiate withdrawal albeit less dramatic.
Common symptoms of kratom withdrawal include:
• Muscle aches
• Runny nose
• Joint or bone pain
• Jerky movements of legs and arms
• Mood swings
Quick Fact: Kratom addiction and withdrawal symptoms are very similar to the effects of coffee addiction or caffeine withdrawal. In fact, kratom belongs to the same family of botanicals as the coffee tree — rubiaceae.
Other potential symptoms of kratom withdrawal may include anxiety, depression, insomnia, constipation, irritability, tremors, sweating, chills, nausea, weight loss and headaches. Kratom withdrawal symptoms generally start to show up within 6 to 12 hours after the last dose and peak within 2 to 3 days. Kratom withdrawal can last up to a week or more for users who are heavily dependent on it. Again, these results are uncommon to those who use kratom responsibly.
Kratom provides many benefits including relieving pain, depression, and stress as well as improving mood and cognitive functions. It can have a dark side though, so it is always important to be aware of the risks of dependence, addiction and withdrawal when using kratom. To avoid these risks, be sure to always use the recommended dosage, only use it when necessary and take occasional breaks to avoid you any chance of tolerance building up.
Additionally, always watch out for the mentioned symptoms of addiction and withdrawal and react accordingly. Catching them early can help expedite the recovery process. For those that struggle with addiction, help can be found here.