What Is Kratom Used For?
A report from the EMC (equivalent of FDA in the US) reported that kratom has been traditionally used in Southeast Asia and Africa for relief of work-related pain, for energy, to stimulate appetite and as a sexual enhancer. Medicinal uses in these regions include as an anti-diarrheal, cough suppressant, anti-diabetic treatment, an intestinal deworming agent, as a wound poultice, and to wean addicts off heroin.7 There are no approved medicinal uses in Western medicine, though the drug has been popularized for getting off heroin, and for recreational effects such as euphoria and as a substitute for opioids.
Kratom Use For Pain Management
Pain is a devilish overlord. It may be true that prescription drugs alleviate pain, but it may also be that big pharma has taken advantage of the vulnerability of the suffering to line their own pockets through the careless saturation of the market with the most highly addictive drugs ever known to man or beast.
After the fiasco of Oxycontin ©, many turned to heroin or other alternatives for pain management. Kratom has been popularized as such an alternative. Users experiencing chronic pain claim that kratom is an effective and gentle substance for chronic pain management. However, long-term use of kratom, notably at high dose levels, can induce significant side effects.8 Holistic measures can help discover and treat the root causes of pain, both physical and psychological, so that numbing agents are no longer a necessity.
Kratom Use For Withdrawal
According to research published in the 2013 Addiction Journal, 40 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Some of this population has found their prescription opioids have stopped working over time, yet produce wretched withdrawals when attempting to stop. Kratom has been found useful for those who are seeking to self-manage their pain as well as the withdrawals from prescribed opioids.9
The researchers found that as effective as kratom was in attenuating harsh opiate withdrawals, the person would likely continue taking it well after opioid cessation was completed. As with treating addiction to any substance, there is a fear that, rather than break the addiction and return to abstinence, the initial addictive substance will instead be replaced with another addictive drug. Adverse effects of kratom are described in the next section, below.
What are the Side Effects of Kratom Use?
Kratom side effects include invigorating euphoria, alertness, pain relief, respiratory suppression, sedation, dream-like state, constipation, injury to kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and thyroid. Also reported are weight loss, nausea and vomiting, increased sociability, increased energy and capacity to work, sexual arousal, cocaine-like stimulation, profuse sweating, and flushing of the cheeks.7
A clinical study involving 263 kratom users found more than half developed severe dependency after more than 6 months of using, and the higher the dose, the more cravings would be experienced. The withdrawals were also found to be more severe the longer the period of use.10
Physical kratom withdrawal symptoms were reported as muscle spasms, tremors, nausea and vomiting, chills, body aches, profuse sweating, muscle aches, pain, watery eyes, runny nose, cravings, insomnia, fever, hot flashes, no appetite, and diarrhea. Psychological withdrawals included restlessness, tension, anger, sadness, anxiety, and nervousness. Infants born to mothers addicted to kratom can experience post-natal withdrawal syndrome.11
Is Kratom Hard on the Liver?
Yes. Though the mechanism is poorly understood, kratom is known to cause liver damage. Kratom can also damage the heart, the lungs, and the kidneys. Kratom is processed in the body as a toxin. Some of the alkaloids in Kratom are cardio-toxic. Toxicity reactions should receive emergency medical care to avoid brain injury or other severe consequences. The symptoms of kratom toxicity include heart failure, respiratory failure, brain tissue damage (hypoxia), hallucinations, coma, and rarely, death.12
Traditional Use of Kratom
Regional names for kratom products include Biak, Ketum, Ithang, Thom, and Kauam. The leaves of the mitragyna tree are chopped or dried and ground up to be either smoked, chewed, taken in capsules, or brewed to make tea.
Traditionally, kratom was consumed in Thailand and other tropical countries, with the intention of fighting fatigue and improving work productivity. There is also evidence for the appearance of kratom in indigenous religious ceremonies. Local traditions also employ the use of kratom for the mitigation of pain, treatment of diarrhea, treating wounds, and later, as a substitute for opium.1
Those who take kratom orally are met with a bitter, earthy, and herbal flavor that some enjoy, but many find the flavor a bit repulsive until they become accustomed or find a way to improve it. Some mix the kratom into milk or yogurt in attempts to neutralize the taste, and may even add sweeteners like honey. Others choose to dissolve powdered kratom into liquids including fruit juices that can mask the taste.1
Is Kratom Considered a Controlled Substance?
Different countries and regions have different regulations in place about the use or the sale of kratom. In some areas it is a controlled substance, and in others it is legal, without restrictions on use. Drug regulators can change drug laws without much notice to consumers and for kratom, this happens frequently.
Does Kratom Use Cause Depression?
Small doses of kratom produce a mildly invigorating euphoria. But, as use becomes habitual, tolerance builds, dosage increases, and potential dependence on the substance can take place. As drug dependence worsens, so can depression, anxiety and pain.13
While arguably better in low doses than using opiates, kratom used at high doses can be viciously hard on the kidneys, heart, and other organs and develop a formidable dependence. The withdrawal from kratom is often complicated with similar withdrawal characteristics as opiates. For kratom withdrawal an option to consider may be using low dose naltrexone or other temporary medication, along with holistic treatment that can encourage the body to repair opiate receptor function.13
We recommend abstinence based approaches that include direct neurotransmitter and other support such as the items seen here.