Most people who know of Mitragyna Speciosa, also popularly known as Kratom, might be surprised to see that it belongs to the same plant family as Coffea—the plant that produces everyone’s beloved coffee beans. Both kratom and the coffee plant are members of the plant family Rubiaceae.
Both of these plants are the main ingredients of beverages and are known for having potent alkaloids. However, here is where their similarities end.
Whereas coffee and its primary alkaloid, caffeine, are widely researched and generally accepted to be safe in moderate amounts, kratom isn’t well studied. We know that the plant’s psychoactive effects are comparable to opioids, and it is highly addictive to boot. In fact, it is now a controlled substance in Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, and a few European countries.
Addiction refers to a compulsive physiological need to use a habit-forming substance. At least in the medical sense, every kind of addiction displays common signs regardless of what particular substance caused it.
However, to paint a clearer picture, here are some general signs of kratom addiction include the following:
Having an intense desire to use the substance regularly, whether for a one-time daily dose up to a need for several hits a day
Inability to focus on anything else except for the urge to use the substance
Formation of a tolerance; experiencing the need to consume more to achieve the same effects
Complete disregard of other responsibilities and necessities and focusing energy and finances to acquire a supply of the addictive substance
Inability to stop using the substance regardless of the problems and risks involved
Engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence of the substance or excessive spending despite financial difficulties
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after not being able to use the substance
If you or someone you know is suffering from kratom addiction, remember that it’s never too late to seek help. Like any other medical condition, kratom addiction can be treated with step-by-step programs and rehabilitation centers.
What is kratom?
As mentioned before, kratom is a plant closely related to the Coffee plant. It grows naturally in many southeast Asian countries, like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Other names for the addictive plant include Ketum, Kakuam, Biak, Thom, and Ithang.
Traditionally, people chewed on the leaves of the kratom plant for pain relief. Its leaves can also be steeped in hot water, much like how tea is prepared and served. It was also believed to increase energy, appetite, and was also commonly used as an aphrodisiac.
People from Thailand also used kratom to treat coughs, diarrhea, and intestinal infections.
Is kratom addictive?
Despite being mainly used in traditional medicine, people quickly caught on with its potent psychoactive effects and began using it recreationally. People in the United States, in particular, consume kratom for the “high” that it produces.
Like coffee, kratom induces increased energy and a feeling of alertness in people who drink water infused with its leaves or those who chew on the leaves directly. However, when taken in large amounts, it has been shown to exhibit opioid-like effects, such as a sense of euphoria, decreased pain, and, in particularly high amounts, sedation.
Kratom is highly addictive. However, with a lack of research available, scientists have not been able to reach a consensus as to which of it’s at over 40 alkaloids are causing the addictive compulsions. Most of the research indicates that the most active ingredients are Mutragynine, Hydroxy mitragynine, and Raubasine.
However, scientists seem to agree that some of these alkaloids behave similarly to opioid painkillers and produce the same effects. Like opioid painkillers, kratom can be useful in decreasing painful sensations—but, unfortunately, it can also easily be abused.
At moderate to high doses (around 5 g), kratom exhibits opioid-like effects that can last for several hours. Recreational users describe the “high” as reportedly milder than other opioid drugs. Besides pain relief, users claim that kratom induces sleep, can suppress cough symptoms, and helps reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms.
At high doses (greater than 15 g), users report extreme sedation and loss of consciousness.
Types of Kratom
There are three known strains of kratom plants, and they are named according to the color of their veins: Red-vein, White-vein, and Green-vein. Growers believe that the vein’s color also corresponds to the different effects that the consumption of its leaves induce on people.
Red-vein kratom is said to be the most commonly-available and best-selling strain. It is supposed to be an excellent sleep-aid because it imparts peaceful feelings to the user. People also claim that this particular strain can help opiate addicts control withdrawal symptoms.
On the other hand, white-vein kratom is supposed to act more as a stimulant and positive mood enhancer. This strain is also considered the most addictive, as it induces the most stimulating and euphoric sensations!
Meanwhile, propagators describe Green-vein kratom as in the middle of Red and White-vein—a kind of addictive middle ground, so to speak.
Withdrawal symptoms are a sign of addiction because of your body’s reaction from being weaned off the substance. Since your brain’s reward centers have been conditioned to induce pleasurable and euphoric feelings due to kratom consumption, your body will begin to revolt within a few hours or days of not consuming it.
Put simply, you will feel bad without a constant supply of the substance, and your brain and body will do everything it can to stop feeling bad.
Despite being legal in most of the United States, kratom is on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s watch list for several years because of its toxic and potentially fatal nature. In a 2018 report published by the Food and Drugs Commission, coroners concluded that kratom was the main culprit behind 91 overdose deaths recorded between 2016 and 2017. However, it’s worth noting that of these 91 cases, only in 7 patients was kratom the only substance to be found.
A definitive study of kratom’s overdose symptoms is yet to be conducted. However, most people who call poison centers complaining about kratom overdose reported the following symptoms:
Besides the dangers of overdose, kratom carries with it some side effects as well. The side effects are dependent on the number of doses taken. Most reports of these side effects come with high doses of kratom (>15 g). The side effects of kratom use may include the following:
Nausea and vomiting
Kratom and Alcohol
In theory, you can—but you most definitely shouldn’t. There’s not much credible and verifiable information about how kratom interacts with alcohol, much less how their combined effects can affect bodily functions.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of people mixing the two substances with no trouble. However, a vast majority of kratom-related overdoses and deaths involve some use of alcohol. Until substantial research can be done about how the two substances interact, it’s best not to mix kratom and alcohol.
If traditional medicine is to be believed, kratom may provide benefits such as pain relief and increase energy and alertness. However, the lack of official research on its effects, combined with uncontrolled recreational use, has earned the plant infamy.
Until more research can be conducted, it’s a good idea to steer away from using the product. This is to avoid developing an addiction and keeping safe from kratom’s documented but unstudied effects on the human body.