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Is Kratom Addictive?

Kratom leaves with medicinal capsules and powder in a white ceramic bowl on a wooden table, top down view.  

Kratom is a pain-relieving drug that is derived from a plant, much like marijuana. It can be found as a powder, in pill capsules or as dried leaves, which can be used in tea. There are different strains or types of kratom that act slightly differently on the body but have fairly similar overall effects. At low doses, kratom has stimulating effects similar to caffeine, but at higher concentrations, it can relieve pain and act as a sedative, much like opioids.

Kratom has a high addiction potential due to its effects on the brain. When taken in high concentrations, a person can get a high or euphoric feeling from kratom, which could make them crave its use. Kratom use is a big concern as a drug used by teens, given that it is easily accessible.

Why Is Kratom Used?

Though it is not approved for any medical use by the FDA, people who use kratom claim that it has beneficial effects. Kratom is most often used for pain relief or to relieve the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Kratom binds to the same receptors as opioids in the brain, making it have similar effects as opioids, but with much less severe side effects. There are different strains of kratom that will bind to these receptors with different potency and effectiveness, making some types of kratom best for pain relief, while other types of kratom may be used for opioid withdrawal.

Since kratom also binds to opioid receptors, when a person is going through opioid withdrawal and their body is adjusting to functioning without opioids in its system, taking kratom can relieve some of the symptoms of withdrawal. In binding to the same receptors as opioids, it will mimic the opioid chemical, but with a less potent effect.

Is Kratom an Opioid?

Opioids are synthetically made drugs whose chemical make-up is similar to that of opiates, which are derived from poppy plants–the same plants where poppy seeds come from. Examples of opioids include Vicodin, OxyContin, fentanyl and methadone.

Kratom can get you high like opiates because they bind to the same receptor in the brain. By definition, any chemical that binds to the opioid receptor is considered an opioid. Therefore, kratom is an opioid, even though it is not commonly referred to as one.

Addictive Qualities of Kratom

Teens who use kratom have the risk of developing an addiction to it. Because it binds to opioid receptors, kratom can induce euphoria. When a person experiences this, they may start to crave that feeling and are at risk of developing a kratom addiction. The euphoric feeling usually happens when kratom is used at higher concentrations than would be used to relieve pain.

Even when used at lower concentrations, with chronic use, it is possible to develop a tolerance to kratom. This happens when the dose a person would normally take to have the desired effect of kratom no longer works and they have to take a higher dose in order to feel its effects. Developing a tolerance to a drug is a sign of addiction and can lead to the person becoming dependent on the drug, where their body will not function normally without the drug being present.

Kratom Withdrawal

When a person uses kratom long-term and has developed a dependence on kratom, they will go through withdrawal if they stop using kratom. Some of the symptoms of kratom withdrawal include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Being unable to sleep
  • Feeling irritable
  • Acting aggressively
  • Sudden, uncontrolled movements

Kratom addiction withdrawal can be avoided by monitoring the kratom dosage that a person uses. If they limit their dose and do not become tolerant on kratom, then they will not go through withdrawal when they stop using it. This can also be beneficial in preventing an addiction to kratom.

Kratom Remains a ‘Drug of Concern’

Due to the effects of kratom on the body and its potential for addiction, several states have put a ban on kratom, making it illegal to use or possess. Though the federal government does not currently have regulations on the use of kratom, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has attempted to in the past. The DEA has labeled kratom as a “drug of concern” due to its potential for abuse and after a series of overdose deaths occurred involving kratom.

However, users of kratom claim that the opioid-like herb is a solution to the opioid epidemic in that it helps people go through opioid withdrawal and aids in preventing them from further opioid use. These claims are not supported by the FDA, and the regulation of kratom by the federal government remains a point of debate.

If you or someone you know is experimenting with kratom and feel that you have developed an addiction, Next Generation Village is here to help. We have comprehensive treatment programs specific to teens that are struggling with a substance use disorder. Contact Next Generation Village today to speak with a representative about getting the help you need.

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