Over the past years, the use of Kratom has increased which has eventually led to Kratom abuse. Over the years, the various side effects of Kratom abuse and its positive and negative effects on the body are being discussed because it is very important for the user to know about Kratom and its uses before they get dependent on the drug.
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a plant-based substance that comes from the leaves of Mitragyna speciosa tree. It has an impact on the working of the human brain. 7-hydroxymitragynine and mitragynine are the two active ingredients in Kratom that work together to produce stimulating effects when taken in low dosage and sedative effects when taken in high dosages.
Kratom is also known as ithang, herbal speedball, biak-biak, thom, kahuam, and ketum and can be taken in the raw form by chewing the leaves. It can also be brewed into a beverage or it is available in the form of gel capsules also. Even small amounts of Kratom intake can cause a huge rise in the energy levels of the individual and boost alertness, increased sociability, and talkativeness. High amounts of Kratom intake is known to activate the opioid receptors in the brain that reduces pain and causes a euphoric “high” which can lead to addiction with regular usage.
Can Kratom Cause Addiction?
When a person starts taking a mind-altering or psychotropic drug like Kratom, it changes the natural chemistry of the brain. The chemical messengers that are produced in the brain and runs throughout the body might get stimulated or not absorbed completely. Drugs like Kratom fill opioid receptors in the brain and create a backlog of few neurotransmitters that are involved in making a person feel happy. When regular intake of Kratom alters the brain’s chemistry, the chemical messengers might not travel through all the central nervous system on a regular basis and the individual gets dependant on the drug.
Kratom addiction exhibits some common signs that are experienced with any substance causing addiction. Some of the common signs are:
- Craving for the substance and wanting to use it regularly. Sometimes, several times in a day.
- The urge to use the substance is so strong that it becomes the main aim of life. Individuals who are addicted to a substance find it difficult to focus on other things.
- Taking the substance more than required and for a longer period of time.
- Maintaining a constant supply of the substance.
- With more use of the substance, increase in the doses to achieve the same effects from it.
- Spending every penny on the substance even when there is less money.
- Getting involved in risky activities when under the influence of the substance like having unprotected sex or harsh driving.
- Not giving up on the use of the substance even after knowing about the risks and problems it can cause.
- Spending a lot of time daily on obtaining the substance, using it and recovering from its effects.
- Trying to stop using the substance, but failing.
- Experiencing painful physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not being used.
How to Recognize Addiction in Others?
You might wonder about the change in behavior or something about someone you love or your friend. It might be an addiction that they are hiding from you or something else like a stressful job. To find out what it is, the following signs must be noticed in the person:
Changes in mood: drug addiction can tend to cause anxiety, depression, mood swings, or irritation.
Change in behavior: behavioral changes like aggression, violent behavior or acting secretive about something.
Changes in physical appearance: The individual’s physical appearance might change like loss of weight or sudden weight gain, red eyes, poor hygiene.
Health problems: the person might experience health issues like fatigue, lack of energy, chronic diseases.
Changes in social behavior: the person might refrain from meeting his friends or family and have relationship issues. He might be friendlier with drug users.
Poor work performance: Drop in work performance, school grades or loss of a job and disinterest in work on a regular basis for no particular reason.
Monetary or legal issues: Asking for more money without any suitable explanation, stealing money from close ones or getting arrested.
Symptoms of Kratom withdrawal
Drug dependence might be more depending upon the higher doses, multiple drug abuse, mental health or medical condition, chronic stress, the time span of abusing the drug and environmental factors. The person tends to face withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings when the drug consumption is not regular. The withdrawal symptoms can start right after the drug is processed out of the body. Kratom withdrawal symptoms can start around 6-8 hours after the last dose. The signs of Kratom abuse in a person consist of:
- Tendency of nervousness or getting edgy
- Improved ability to complete tedious tasks
- Increased energy in the initial stages
- Insensitive to emotional or physical pains
- Excessive itching
A low dose of Kratom which is under 5gms of the raw leaves produces stimulating effects on the individual like that of amphetamine which is not intense. When Kratom is taken in higher doses, it creates an opiate-like effect in the individual which is just like the narcotic drugs. The symptoms of Kratom abuse, when taken in low or high doses, are as follows:
- More socializing
- Increased sex drive
- Reduced fatigue
- Impaired coordination
- Insensitivity towards pain
There are psychological symptoms also that are experienced by the individuals when they abuse Kratom, although, these symptoms are rare. The most common side effects of Kratom abuse are:
- Loss in appetite
- Frequent urination
- Dry mouth
- More sensitive to sunburn
Depending on how long the person has been taking Kratom and the dosage they took every time, the severity of the symptoms will vary. The Kratom alkaloids leave the system within six days and thus, the withdrawal symptoms are more intense between four and six days. The entire process will gradually reduce and end at around ten days. Cravings for the drug might still be there along with psychological withdrawal symptoms which last longer than the physical symptoms anyway.
Stages of Kratom Withdrawal
In general, there are three stages of Kratom withdrawal which are:
Acute stage of Kratom withdrawal: This stage of Kratom withdrawal has the most severe symptoms. Due to these symptoms, it becomes very hard for the individual to withstand the pain and they end up in resorting to the drug again. This stage of withdrawal causes physical symptoms mainly like anxiety, depression, chills, dizziness, diarrhea, headaches, insomnia, sweating, runny nose, tremors, fever, restlessness, etc.
Intermediary Stage of Kratom withdrawal: The second stage consists of the reducing physical withdrawal symptoms. In this stage, the person experiences more psychological effects along with mild physical effects like muscle cramps, anxiety, fatigue, depression, and cravings.
Post-Acute Stage of Kratom withdrawal: This is the final stage of Kratom withdrawal but it is variable and symptoms can occur even months after your last Kratom use. Depression, anxiety, etc. are common psychological symptoms that are common at this stage. Physical symptoms are very rarely experienced, but nausea or exhaustion can happen sometimes. This stage can last for a very long period of time and professional support is recommended for a healthy and speedy recovery.
How long Does Kratom Withdrawal Last?
Kratom withdrawal symptoms and timeline is similar to the same as that of opioid withdrawal which is 7-10 days.
In the first 24 hours after the last dosage, the symptoms begin. In the acute withdrawal period, symptoms like increased cravings, anxiety and other physical symptoms like runny nose, muscle aches, sweating, insomnia etc. can be experienced.
2-4 days after the last dose, the withdrawal symptoms intensify and reach the peak where the individual might experience diarrhea, goosebumps, dilated pupils and abdominal cramps.
All the symptoms gradually start subsiding after 7 to 10 days from the last dose of the drug.
Factors that Determine Kratom Withdrawal Timeline
There are factors that determine the Kratom withdrawal timeline and duration of the withdrawal which is not the same in every individual. The factors are:
Amount of Kratom Used: The amount of Kratom that is consumed at each dosage determines the degree of addiction. The withdrawal process can get more intense when the regular dosage of the drug intake is higher.
Time-Length of Kratom Abuse: Kratom withdrawal will be more difficult when the time span of abusing the drug is longer.
Combination of Drugs: Sometimes, Kratom is combined with other substances and consumed like mixed with cough syrup or alcohol etc., when drugs are combined, the withdrawal process gets more complicated.
Underlying mental health or medical conditions: Kratom can be abused sometimes in order to reduce physical pain or combat opioid dependence. If the individual has any underlying medical condition or mental health issue, the withdrawal symptoms can be severe and professional support might be necessary.
Family/personal history of addiction: It is more likely that individuals with close family members who suffer from drug abuse will also suffer from drug addiction and drug dependence. A personal history of the individual’s addiction can also influence the withdrawal timeline and symptoms.
History of trauma or stress: Environmental factors like any traumatizing event or high levels of stress can increase the withdrawal symptoms and also increase the duration of the withdrawal process.
How to Treat Kratom withdrawal?
Kratom abuse is a rising threat to the public health today and has led to several deaths in the recent years. Kratom withdrawal can lead to life-threatening side effects like seizures, aggression, violent behavioral changes, and psychotic episodes, which is why individuals should resort to medical detox methods for reducing the possible side effects of Kratom withdrawal. There are several medications that can help an individual cope with Kratom withdrawal symptoms. For example, blood pressure medications can help with the physical complications of Kratom withdrawal and antidepressants can help in reducing the psychological side effects. Mental health support and medical monitoring can help individuals who are looking for Kratom addiction treatment. The treatment providers can help the patients to manage their side effects and cravings.
To treat Kratom withdrawal, seeking help from detox services is important. Detox refers to the time in the drug dependence recovery process in which the individual who is addicted or dependant on Kratom will stop taking it completely. Their body will start eliminating the toxins and residue substances slowly and rebalancing the natural system of the body. When a person has been using Kratom for a long period of time, the drug dependence is greatly increased which makes it more likely for severe withdrawal symptoms to occur. During a medical detox, the individual will be treated with compassion and care in the best professional way by the highly trained staff. They will follow every step to help the individual recover and overcome their drug dependence in a comfortable and safe treatment process.
There are three stages of drug detox which consists of evaluation, stabilization and finally a comprehensive treatment program. Opioids, Kratom and other drugs like benzodiazepines have severe withdrawal symptoms, which is why medically supervised detox programs are recommended to these individuals. Stopping the usage of these drugs abruptly can be life-threatening. To recover completely with reduced risks, the individual must participate in treatment programs after detox. Here is an elaboration of the three stages of a drug detox program for Kratom:
Evaluation: During this stage of Kratom addiction treatment the individual using Kratom will be treated by medical professionals and blood tests, screenings to detect other conditions and a full assessment of the individual’s mental and physical history will be done to decide the appropriate course of Kratom addiction treatment.
Stabilization: After the completion of evaluation, the individual is moved to the next stage, stabilization. During this phase, the individual will be treated with medications to reduce the symptoms of Kratom withdrawal. They might be suggested with diet charts to follow while they detox and start recovering slowly.
Treatment program: After stabilization, the individual will be undergoing actual treatment to treat their substance use disorder.
Medical detox is the safest and most comfortable way to treat Kratom withdrawal. Detox experts can help every individual to identify and address their medical issues while they help the individual to recover from addiction.
Depending on the individual’s symptoms of Kratom abuse, there are two treatment options available and the individual can choose from either of them according to their need. The treatment options are:
- Residential inpatient:
Through the inpatient care facilities, the individuals seeking comfortable and quality Kratom abuse treatment are helped to overcome their drug dependence. The patients here are assisted in opening up regarding the cause of their addiction, also maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle to overcome the addiction. This form of treatment is helpful because it keeps the individual away from any social pressure that could lead to abusing the substance again. It allows the individual to meet and stay with other people experiencing similar situations and motivates all of them to work together towards coping with their drug dependences. Individuals participating in inpatient Kratom abuse treatment are kept under professional medical care to help reduce the symptoms gradually and make it easier for them to cope with it when the withdrawal symptoms are peaking. Several therapies like behavioral therapy, group therapy, and individual therapy help the individuals in overcoming all the physical and psychological symptoms gradually in a comfortable way.
- Outpatient Treatment
This treatment option is the best for individuals with mild dependence on the drug. During the treatment, the patients are required to actively participate in group therapy, individual therapy, relapse prevention therapy, and medical management programs. They can choose to continue with their normal lifestyles and stay at home with their families while they are on the treatment. This treatment option is not very effective for Kratom abuse treatment, which requires constant professional medical support and inpatient services are preferred in that case. After the completion of a residential inpatient treatment, the patient can go for an outpatient treatment program to get the best results.
Preventing relapse is an extended part of the recovery process where it is necessary for the individual to know about techniques to prevent relapse and aim for long-term soberness. The following steps can be taken to reduce the risk of relapse in a recovering or an already addiction-free individual:
- Seek support or help from family, friends, and professional health care providers when needed.
- Avoid people, places and things that can influence you to use drugs.
- Keep yourself busy with productive activities.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious food, proper sleep, and regular exercises.
- Develop a positive mindset and work towards improving your self-image.
- Set goals and work on achieving them.
How to Cope with Kratom Withdrawal?
Kratom addiction can be effectively treated although it might take some time. The individual must be patient and take professional help if he feels the need. There are certain ways to help the individual cope with the Kratom withdrawal. In the initial stages, the symptoms of Kratom withdrawal can be managed by lowering the dosage slowly to reduce the symptoms and cravings. This process is known as tapering off the substance. Through this process, the person’s brain chemistry can be rebalanced with time without suddenly stopping the drug intake which can lead to severe and life-risking symptoms. When a drug like Kratom is suddenly stopped after the individual has developed a dependence on it, the brain may suffer a rebound effect which would cause significant withdrawal symptoms.
Depending upon the situation and your medical condition, to cope with Kratom withdrawal, taking necessary medications to reduce the symptoms like taking medication for regulating blood pressure, medications to improve sleep or seeking help from a therapist when there are psychological symptoms bothering the individual, is necessary to cope with the Kratom withdrawal. Marinating a healthy diet with nutritious food can enhance the individual’s endurance level which in return will help him in coping with the withdrawal symptoms. Rigorous exercises and taking alternative supplements to reduce the symptoms are also recommended in this case.
Preventing Kratom Abuse
The best way to prevent Kratom abuse is to maintain a balance to avoid the drug dependence. To eliminate or reduce the risk of physical and mental dependence on Kratom, the following factors are helpful:
- The dosage of Kratom.
- The frequency of Kratom intake.
- Intervals between each dosing.
- Taking long breaks after some days of Kratom intake.
Using high dosage on a regular basis increases the chance of drug dependence. Following a limitation on the dosage that is safe to use will be ideal. Using Kratom over 10gms repeatedly is harmful. Using a dosage of 3-5gms of Kratom is safe. Taking intervals between every dosage you take is the best way to make sure you are not getting dependant on the drug. A gap of 12 hours between two dosages is the best as it gives the body time to drain out the Kratom alkaloids out of its system.
This powerful plant has both positive and negative effects on the body. It is up to the user on how he chooses to use it. A low dosage of the drug will help in treating medical conditions while higher dosage on a regular basis can make one addicted to the drug. Kratom does not require a prescription to purchase, which is why there are no instructions on how to use it. Thus proper information about the side effects of the drug abuse must be learned by the user before one starts using it.
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