Kratom is a plant that originates from the Mitragyna speciosa tree. This plant is known to induce opiate-like effects which can easily lead to addiction. The leaves and stems of kratom are usually dried before being chewed or brewed into a tea to achieve a stimulating effect. At higher doses, it resembles the effects of opioids.
Kratom is popular in many Southeast Asian countries, most notably Thailand where the plant is sometimes mixed with cough syrup or soda to create a cocktail called 4×100. Within 5-10 minutes of ingestion, kratom can induce a high that can last anywhere from 2-5 hours. Mitragynine, the active chemical found in the plant, increases the user’s energy at low doses and produces a sedative, pain-blocking feeling when taken at higher dosages.
Understanding kratom abuse
Kratom is used by many people as a “legal” way to experience a high. This substance appeals to teens and individuals who view the plant as a safe alternative to illicit drugs like fentanyl and codeine. Some bars in Thailand offer kratom cocktails or sell them in powder form to mix with other drinks. Kratom is also known by many slang names like Biak, Ketum, Thang, Kakuam, and Thom.
While kratom may not be detected in drug tests, it does behave like other narcotics. This makes kratom abuse rampant and can be difficult to get rid of once hooked. The drug is relatively new on the recreational drug scene in the West and its full effects have yet to be fully understood. But the general consensus is that the psychoactive properties of kratom can lead to dependence and turn into a full-blown addiction.
When kratom abuse turns into addiction
Dependence and addiction are tied together. When a person is dependent on a substance, they experience changes in their brain chemistry due to regular use Since kratom is known to act like opioid drugs, withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, fatigue, depression, and drug cravings can occur.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) states that long-term kratom abuse can cause weight loss, insomnia, anorexia, frequent urination, constipation, dry mouth, skin discolouration. Withdrawal side effects can include jerky movements, hostile activity, aggression, achy bones and muscles, and a runny nose. In some cases, psychotic episodes like delusions and hallucinations can occur.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published a study that details psychiatric illness and significant withdrawal symptoms in individuals who abused kratom long term. They cited insomnia, irritability, and muscle pain as the most common symptoms. In addition to that, they also reported paranoia, nullified pleasure receptors, and hallucinations as possible symptoms.
In the medical world, addiction is considered a brain disease and drug dependence is one of the main signs of the disease. However, NIDA reports indicate that before a person is diagnosed with addiction, according to the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), they must exhibit compulsive, drug-seeking behaviors and continue to use substances whilst ignoring the negative consequences. Compulsive means that the person has no longer control of their substance use and they spend the majority of their time trying to use or acquire the drug.
Some of the physical, emotional, social, and behavioral changes to look for when determining if a person is addicted to kratom are:
- Changes in physical appearance such as weight loss and neglecting personal hygiene
- Irregular sleep patterns and waking up at random times during the night
- Sudden mood swings like irritability, aggression, and potentially suicidal thoughts brought by kratom withdrawal
- Irresponsibility towards their actions and doing things that are way out of their character
- Unfulfilled obligations from work, family, and other aspects of their life
- A shift in personality: They start to become socially distant and they shroud their life in secrecy
- Financial struggles due to working less or spending all their remaining money on kratom
- Getting into legal troubles and engaging in risky behavior
Getting help from kratom addiction
Treatment for kratom addiction usually involves three phases; detoxification, therapy, and recovery. The first phase involves cleansing the body safely from kratom whilst managing the symptoms in a controlled environment. Medications along with professional supervision are provided in a medical detox facility to complete the detox process.
Therapy and counseling are major components of therapeutic treatment and are usually offered in an outpatient or residential setting. Outpatient programs fall into two main categories; Intensive outpatient care and general outpatient care. The former follows a similar schedule to a residential program where the patient stays in the recovery facility for some time while the latter is more flexible and can be tailored to the patient’s availability.
Residential treatment refers to the patient staying in a specialized treatment center to receive constant care. Days are scheduled with sessions, meetings, educational learnings, and scheduled meal/sleep times. Some facilities offer complementary or holistic care services like massage or yoga to promote better health and well-being.
If you or anyone you know is dealing with kratom addiction, know that there is hope and you can recover from it. Contact Calm Rehab, the number one rehab facility in Bali today and learn more about how we can help with addiction recovery.