A very popular current notion of how best to treat opioid addiction is through Kratom, which is derived from a tropical tree in Southeast Asia.
For hundreds of years, its leaves have been crushed and consumed in various forms – as a tea, or produced into liquids, capsules and tables. The amount of the dosage can result in Kratom having the affect as either a stimulant or a sedative.
Locally, word of this has been making the rounds, mostly through social media posts and word of mouth. If you are wondering why you don’t hear recommendations from medical professionals, perhaps that should be enough to make anyone leery of endorsements from non-professionals.
Here are five reasons Kratom should not be viewed as a way to treat opioid addiction.
Kratom is not designed for weaning off opioids
Kratom is not the answer for safely getting away from opioid addiction, said Joseph George, MD, FASAM, Board Certified in Addiction Medicine with All Opiates Detox in the Detroit area.
“One important aspect of it is that it works like an opiate,” he said. “Opiate-dependent patients want to stop their drug of choice by substituting Kratom, as it occupies the opiate receptor.”
What needs to be known is the difficult side-effects which accompany Kratom use.
“Initially it would be dosed a few times during the day,” Dr. George said. “Later, (users) want to dose every 1-2 hours because of the fast-occurring withdrawals. So, it is not a remedy for weaning or treating opiate dependence.”
Is Kratom regulated? No, and that’s a concern
Originally marketed as a dietary or nutritional supplement until 2014, reports of its toxic effects caused the Food and Drug Administration to ban its import. However, the get-around comes from selling it in head shops, tobacco stores or gas stations – sold in powered or pill form (where it is often labeled as incense). And since it is not a controlled substance, it is not regulated. As a result, not only are there no legitimate warnings posted with it (such as dangers and side-effects), but it may be cut with other potentially-hazardous substances.
In other words, the user can’t trust what they are actually putting in their body.
Dangerous uses of Kratom
There are reports of dangerous interactions with other drugs. For instance, if someone is already using opioids such as hydrocodone, then using Kratom in tandem with it, it produces results ranging from increased depression to death – in additional to increasing the likelihood of addiction. A vast majority of Kratom-related deaths occur when used with narcotics.
Seizures also occur with this combination.
Also, in some cultures (such as in Thailand), a mix of plant-based kratom and a caffeinated beverage of cough syrup (known as 4×100) can create an alcohol-like stupor.
Side-effects of Kratom
Think about this, as we return to the idea of substituting Kratom for an opioid in an effort to get off that opioid.
Many people use Kratom as a means of getting off an opioid. In theory, the concept is to ‘dial down’ an addiction…
Except the theory does not hold much water for a basic reason: If the user already has an addictive personality trait, inserting Kratom into the mix simply adds a new set of issues that can come from overuse.
Those issues include withdrawal, muscle aches, insomnia, aggression and hostility, irritability, emotional changes and runny nose. Because research is ongoing, treatment for kratom abuse is sporadic, at best.
Kratom may soon be removed from all shelves
This, from a Harvard medicine blog:
A patient wishing to use kratom for pain or to mitigate withdrawal symptoms would encounter several problems, not all of which have to do with the intrinsic properties of kratom itself…The DEA is threatening to make it a Schedule 1 controlled substance, in the same category as heroin or ecstasy, which would make it difficult to access, and would likely make the supply as a whole even more dangerous. Generally, it’s not a good idea to use something for pain or addiction which is about to become less available and less safe.
That last sentence is especially true.
So, in summary, using an uncontrolled, untested substance which users may become addicted to is not an ideal (or even remotely safe) way to wean yourself off an opioid dependency.