Struggling with an addiction is difficult on its own, and it becomes more challenging when less is known about that addiction. Heroin, cocaine, and other common drugs are well researched and have established treatments in place. But if you suffer from an addiction to something less known, such as kratom, you could be suffering in silence from an unrecognized condition. Knowing what kratom is, how its addiction looks, and which treatment options are available could help you or your loved one find peace away from kratom addiction.
What is Kratom?
Pharmacologically speaking, kratom is similar to opioids. It can cause severe intoxications and withdrawals that are not fully understood by physicians, and they can be tricky to treat without specialized training in kratom addiction. Unlike most drugs, kratom is not easily detectable in the body. It will not show up positive in urine drug screenings and requires either acknowledgment from the user or an immune-assay test to be confirmed.
Because it shares properties with opioids, kratom began in the US as a self treatment for opioid withdrawal symptoms. Local to Southeast Asia, it was originally used for its medicinal properties, curing diarrhea, hypertension, muscle pains, and even coughs. Kratom is also a stimulant that was used to bolster field workers’ energy levels in Malaysia and Thailand.
Because it is a natural substance, it is classified as a legal herbal product and can be freely bought and used in most states. The only states to put an official legal ban on kratom are Indiana, Tennessee, Wyoming, Florida, Alabama, and Wisconsin. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration added kratom to the list of drugs with “chemicals for concern.” An attempt was made in 2016 to move kratom to a schedule I substance but was dropped due to public protest.
The Dangers of Kratom
Because kratom has a stimulant and opioid-like effect, it can lead to compulsive use. Although it is not classified by the FDA as an addictive drug, there is a risk of developing an addiction when used regularly. Because it is not often studied and many physicians are not trained to look for or recognize kratom addiction, it can go unnoticed and untreated until the side effects are severe.
Animal studies have shown kratom has negative interactions with the endocrine system. It can also suppress TSH levels and cause thyroid-related stress symptoms. Kratom’s toxicity can affect the liver, ranging from mildly elevated liver enzymes to acute liver failure. The toxins can also affect the neurological system, and certain cases report seizures as a side effect of the drug. When used during pregnancy, kratom has been known to produce neonatal abstinence syndrome in newborns. There is no known lethal dose for humans, but overdose has been reported for both long term use and first time ingestion.
What Kratom Addiction Looks Like
Kratom studies on mice, along with reports from kratom users, suggest that over time, a dose increase is required to have the same rewarding benefits the drug can create. When starting kratom, users report an increased ability to focus, work, and stay motivated.
However, the longer they are exposed to kratom, the higher the risk of psychiatric problems and physical impairments becomes. Kratom affects the brain and body in several ways, some of which can indicate a possible addiction problem.
Pain Response – Because kratom prolongs the latency to nociceptive or painful stimuli, it’s likely that someone under the influence of kratom could be injured without knowing it. Kratom is also a muscle relaxant that can make certain physical tasks difficult or impossible.
Weight Loss – Kratom use has been shown to increase glucose uptake while slowing the transit time of food and water in cells. This dual effect can cause users to experience weight loss at a faster rate than is healthy.
Cognitive Functions – Kratom inhibits the neuronal potentials in the hippocampus, causing problems with ongoing consolidation of learned materials. While the short term memory and absorption of information are improved, the long term memory is dampened. Users have also reported poor performance on visual/spatial recognition tests.
Withdrawal – Once someone who has become addicted to kratom stops using it, withdrawal symptoms will make themselves known and can persist for around a week and possibly longer. Symptoms of withdrawal are similar to opioid withdrawal and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lacrimation of eyes, restlessness, jerky limb movements, agitation, insomnia, lack of appetite, aggression, depression, and anxiety.
Although it is not classified as an addictive drug, it can be treated the same as most drug abuse and addiction cases. The first step is to detox the body, clearing the drug out. At a medical facility, surveillance can be provided to ensure the drug does not reenter the body. Physicians can also provide medications to assist with withdrawal symptoms and make the detoxing process easier on the patient.
Once the body is clear of toxins, therapy and counseling are provided to help reduce the chances of repeated occurrences. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is especially useful in finding the root cause of an addiction problem and determining ways to rectify it. Many rehab facilities offer residential treatment, meaning the patient will be kept in a safe and secure environment where they can focus on healing and recovering. Outpatient programs are also available and recommended for patients who have a strong outside support group.
Recognizing and choosing to take actions to stop an addiction is a big step, one that The Bridges of San Diego is ready to help you or your loved one take. With the help of our facilities, therapists, and physicians, you don’t have to suffer through kratom addiction alone. We’re dedicated to helping those struggling with substance abuse overcome addiction. We’ll work with you and your insurance to help make recovery possible without putting a strain on your finances. Call us today at 619-330-0145 to start getting your life back to where you want it to be.