Kratom: The New Opioid?

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), 1.5 billion people throughout the world struggle with a chronic pain condition. Within the United States alone, more prescriptions are written for painkillers such as Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin than in all other parts of the world combined. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared prescription painkiller abuse an epidemic, as more and more individuals grappling with pain and/or addiction continued to abuse painkillers for a number of different purposes, ranging from managing pain caused by injury or illness to those looking to achieve the euphoric, detached effects that opioid-based medications such as these are known to produce.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that, as the prescription painkiller epidemic continues to increase in America and other populations throughout the world, other means of killing pain will be sought out. One of the newest (and increasingly popular) medications individuals are turning to is Kratom, a substance that has roots in Southeast Asia. Kratom is a tree that is indigenous to this area and whose leaves are ground down into pill-form and/or powder form and then sold as a dietary supplement in head shops, as well as on the internet.

To obtain Kratom, all one has to do is purchase it at a head shop or order online. The draw to this medication is that, when consumed in small doses, it can produce stimulant effects. However, when abused in larger doses, its effects mimic traditional opioids, sedating the user and relieving his or her physical pain. This occurs because the active ingredient in Kratom, known as mitragynine, plugs the opioid receptors in the brain, easing pain. For some, this all-natural medication is massively attractive as it produces similar effects to an opioid without producing the risk of slowed breathing like traditional opioids do. In addition, Kratom has been known to treat withdrawal symptoms caused by other opioid abuse.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), there is not a specific, valid medical need for this medication in the United States. Kratom is also currently banned in Wisconsin, Vermont, Tennessee, Indiana, Arkansas, and Alabama, despite some of the seemingly beneficial findings that this medication can produce.

As with any other mind-altering substance, the use and abuse of Kratom can be very dangerous. For example, some older reports found that Kratom can be linked to painful withdrawal symptoms when use has ended, including emotional disturbances, aggression, muscle aches and pains, uncontrollable muscle movements, and delusions/hallucinations. Additionally, the overall effects of this medication are not fully clear, making it very risky to abuse in the sense that the user and those around him or her are likely to be unaware of what might occur when consuming Kratom. As with many other medications of its kind, it is typically impossible to know exactly what substances are in Kratom, as it is a medication that can be exposed to synthetic chemicals and other naturally occurring substances that could produce one or more negative reactions. Also, since those who consume this medication are independently purchasing it, they are not receiving the actual medical attention they need for their conditions, whether it be a chronic pain issue or a substance abuse problem. Lastly, the risk of developing an addiction is always present when abusing a substance like Kratom.

Today, the DEA still states that Kratom is a “drug of concern.”

At Duffy’s Napa Valley Rehab, we are devoted to supplying high quality, comprehensive addiction treatment to individuals who have been battling substance abuse, including the abuse of opioids and other similar substances like Kratom. If you or someone you love is in need of help overcoming an addiction, please reach out to us right away. We can help.