Is Kratom Addictive?

Kratom can potentially lead to addiction and the use of other addictive drugs. Fortunately, there is help available for those struggling with kratom.

Kratom is a potentially addictive substance that is relatively new to the United States. At low doses, kratom functions like a stimulant and causes people to feel more alert and energetic. At higher doses, it acts like an opioid and suppresses brain signals, dulls emotions and reduces pain.

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What Is Kratom?

Kratom typically refers to a substance derived from the leaves of the kratom plant, a tree that is native to Southeast Asia. The leaves of this plant are dried and sold as a herbal substance. There are many ways people consume this substance, such as by brewing it as a tea, mixing it into food or drinks, taking it on its own or using a liquid extract form.

Kratom has not been available in the United States for long. It arrived in the U.S. in the late 1990s, but it did not gain any kind of widespread availability or use until around 2017. Because it has not been used for long, there is only a small amount of research available on what kratom actually is and how it works.

Is Kratom an Opioid?

There is some confusion about whether kratom is considered an opioid. Most opioids are either synthetic, semi-synthetic or derived from the opium poppy. Kratom does activate the same opioid receptors in the brain that traditional opioids act on; however, most authorities do not consider kratom to be a true opioid, even though it creates some opioid-like effects.

Types of Kratom

There are several types of kratom, and each can have different combinations and amounts of chemicals in them. Because kratom is so new, there is very little research regarding the differences between various strains of kratom. However, people who use kratom typically classify kratom into three different strains that are thought to have different qualities. These strains get their name from the color of the veins in the leaves of the particular strain. The strains include:

  • Red-veined kratom
  • Green-veined kratom
  • White-veined kratom

Kratom can be used in a few different ways, including:

  • Making it into a tea that is then drunk
  • Grinding it into a powder that is inserted into a capsule and swallowed
  • Chewing on the raw leaves
  • Using a liquid kratom extract
  • Mixing it into foods and beverages

What Does Kratom Do?

Products containing kratom vary significantly, making it hard to predict the actual effects of substances labeled as kratom. Complicating the situation is the fact that kratom has only been of interest to researchers for about half a decade. This means that there is not a lot of data on the effects of kratom.

From what is known about kratom, the substance has two different effects based on how much is used. Low doses of kratom have a stimulant effect that increases sociality, energy and alertness. At higher doses, kratom has the opposite effect and acts as a suppressant. This causes someone to become more dull, tired and slow to respond.

What Is Kratom Used For?

Kratom has no approved medical use, and it is thought to create potential dangers. In spite of this, people use kratom for several reasons. Some may use kratom for the alertness and increased sociability that it creates. In these instances, they may be wanting to perform better at school or work or wanting to be able to socialize more freely.

Kratom is also used because it stimulates opioid receptors. People use this effect of kratom to try to suppress pain or to get high. Some people also attempt to use kratom as an alternative to opioids when trying to avoid the effects of opioid withdrawal.

Kratom for Opiate Withdrawal

Kratom acts on the same receptors as opioids, but it is technically not an opioid. For this reason, people turn to kratom as a potential tool for avoiding or reducing the effects of opioid withdrawal. Unfortunately, kratom is not considered a safe method of withdrawing from opioids. There have been reports of people having serious complications when using kratom as an opioid withdrawal treatment. Additionally, the FDA warns against using kratom for this purpose.

Is Kratom Safe?

Kratom can be dangerous, and there have been cases where kratom has contributed to overdose deaths. Because kratom is new and difficult to test for, the actual number of cases that it is involved in may be underreported. Kratom acts on opioid receptors, so there is a risk that high amounts could stop someone’s breathing. This risk is even higher when it is mixed with other substances. Kratom is also unregulated, making it hard to know exactly what it contains and how strong it is.

Even if kratom does cause an overdose, it can still be dangerous by leading to addiction. People using kratom can develop an addiction that leads to the use of other addictive substances and causes many other problems.

Kratom may also create long-term health concerns, but it is still unclear because the substance is so new to the United States. While the long-term effects will probably not be known for a couple of decades, these effects are unpredictable and could potentially lead to serious health problems.

Is Kratom Legal?

As of mid-2022, kratom is still legal at the federal level; however, some states and cities have laws restricting it. In some cases, kratom or a substance that contains it is completely banned; in others, its use may simply be restricted. There is a trend toward making kratom illegal due to its potentially addictive and harmful effects, and its legal status is in a state of flux. Someone wondering if kratom is legal where they live should check their local laws to see if new laws about kratom have recently been passed.

Is Kratom Addictive?

Kratom can be addictive by itself and may potentially lead to the abuse of other substances. While research into kratom addiction is still limited because it is so new, it does make sense that kratom would be addictive. Opioid receptors can release endorphins when activated, creating a euphoric feeling called a high. Because kratom affects opioid receptors, it is logical that it could lead to addiction.

How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted to Kratom?

It is almost impossible to predict how long it will take any addiction to develop. Kratom is very new and understudied, so there is little research on how long it takes to develop a kratom addiction. While the time frame for kratom addiction is not known, research does show that opioid addictions can develop in just a few weeks. Since kratom is closely related to opioids, it is likely that addiction will develop quickly.

Signs of Kratom Addiction

Kratom addiction is not technically considered a substance use disorder, mainly because it is too new to be included with other official substance use disorders. Because of this, there are no official, medically accepted signs of kratom addiction. However, the general signs of addiction applied to kratom would include:

  • Using kratom even though it may be affecting your health
  • Thinking about kratom when you are not using it
  • Taking safety risks to use kratom
  • Using kratom even though it may be affecting relationships
  • Secrecy or embarrassment about kratom use
  • Decreased performance at work or school caused by kratom use

How Bad Is Kratom Withdrawal?

Kratom withdrawal is not thought to be dangerous, but it can be physically and psychologically unpleasant. The severity of kratom withdrawal is related to how much kratom is used, and people who use kratom three or more times per day are more likely to experience severe withdrawal. 

Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms

Kratom withdrawal symptoms can cause a combination of physical and psychological effects. Kratom withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle spasm
  • Pain
  • Problems sleeping
  • Watery eyes
  • Hot flashes
  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Nervousness

While none of these symptoms are typically life-threatening, they can be very uncomfortable and make stopping kratom use difficult.

Can You Overdose on Kratom?

Kratom can contribute to an overdose. There is still ongoing research into how dangerous kratom is by itself, as most kratom overdose deaths occur when kratom is combined with another substance. It is still debated if kratom is able to be fatal on its own. However, it is clear that it can lead to a fatal overdose when combined with other substances that may not have caused an overdose on their own.

Finding Help for Kratom Addiction in New Jersey

Kratom is addictive, and someone who has developed an addiction to kratom should seek professional help like they would for any other kind of addiction. Kratom addiction may be difficult to recover from by yourself, but the support of an addiction treatment center can help make the recovery process easier and more comfortable.

Located in New Jersey, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper is a full-service rehab center that offers medical detox and a range of addiction treatment programs. Our experts are here to provide evidence-based treatment that helps you begin the healing journey toward lasting recovery. Contact us today to learn more about kratom addiction treatment programs that can work well for you.

Get Help

If you or someone you love is facing an alcohol use disorder, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper can help. We offer medical detox and comprehensive rehab programs that are tailored to suit your needs.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.