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Does Kratom Work for Opioid Withdrawal?

Opiates are drugs derived from or related to the opium poppy plant, and they activate the opioid receptors on nerve cells. Physicians prescribe some opiates like codeine for pain relief. They are useful for relieving pain, but when taken repeatedly for a long time, they may cause tolerance and physical dependence that can lead to addiction. If one stops or cuts back on the drugs after using them heavily for a few weeks or longer, he or she can experience several symptoms. This is known as withdrawal. Some signs of opiate withdrawal include stomach pain, aching muscles, tremors, depression, increased heart rate, chills and fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

The opioid crisis is likely to continue growing, and this will force many people who are addicted to opiates to confront and possibly struggle to overcome their dependency. As more people search for assistance, less than reliable systems are bound to appear. One controversial strategy for self-detoxing from opiates is using Kratom.

The leaves of this plant are picked, dried and ground into a powder. Kratom may be made into a tea or taken in capsule form. The issue with Kratom is that it can be addictive, just like opioids. According to a report that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released in 2018 after extensive studies, Kratom consists of the same chemical compounds that opioids contain. Studies on the 25 commonest chemical compounds in Kratom indicate that it acts on the brain in a similar manner to prescription opiates like oxycodone and non-prescription opiates like heroin.

The positive effects of using Kratom for opioid withdrawal

Several positive effects of using Kratom have been reported, especially for individuals who are struggling with opiate addiction. Here are some of them.

  • Opioid-like Kratom compounds provide anxiety and pain relief.
  • The use of Kratom has been reported to alleviate opiate withdrawal and can help individuals who are addicted to drugs such as heroin to stop abusing them
  • Some researchers also suggest that there is a likelihood that Kratom has a therapeutic potential such as antidepressant effects.
  • The risks of using Kratom are fewer compared to those of using other opioids.
  • Kratom can also be used instead of methadone to treat people addicted to heroin.
  • Kratom can be used instead of alcohol since it can promote sociability and relaxation without the physical/emotional hangover and the long term and short term psychological effects that are brought about by alcohol.

Negative effects of using Kratom for opioid withdrawal

You may be wondering whether Kratom has any negative effects considering that it is an organic substance that is almost similar to coffee. However, just like other substances, Kratom also has some negative effects. The FDA cautions users of Kratom to be careful. Scott Gottlieb, MD, who is the commissioner of the FDA stated that it is dangerous and short-sighted to claim Kratom is benign just because it is a plant. The agency warns that it can be a deadly substance although nearly all of the forty-seven deaths it cited involved the use of a number of drugs. This means that there is no clear evidence showing whether Kratom or another substance killed the users. The potential negative effects of using Kratom for this purpose include:

  • You may become addicted to Kratom, just like you can to other rewarding substances and behaviors. However, the withdrawal symptoms are not severe and last for a few days only. The most common withdrawal symptoms reported are insomnia and pain.
  • Liver issues can occur after 2 to 8 weeks of using Kratom regularly. This can be a significant issue if you use Kratom every day as a replacement for other drugs.
  • Kratom can cause physical symptoms of concern like itching, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice. Heavy use of Kratom can also cause hyperpigmentation of the cheeks because of the overstimulation of melanocytes.
  • There have been reports of Kratom related seizures that increased five-fold in Thailand from 2005 to 2011. Although a majority of these seizures can be attributed to dangerous drug combinations, they are still a cause for concern.

The verdict on using Kratom for opioid withdrawal

Data about using Kratom for opiate withdrawal is mixed. The issues behind why Kratom is not the solution you may think it is are simple. In part, Kratom interests people because opioid addicts claim that using it has enabled them to deal with their addiction to prescription medications. The issue is that by using Kratom in this manner, you may end up trading one addiction for another. The chemical properties of Kratom cause it to binds to the brain’s opioid receptors. People who use Kratom for opioid withdrawal hope that it's milder effects can help replace the need to use “harder” drugs. The problem is that the chemical properties that make Kratom work as a potential detox aid also cause addition. Kratom may not be a safe way to deal with opioid addiction. Besides, many people who choose to use Kratom in this manner choose to go it alone. The journey to recovery can be hard if you lack a support network. It is advisable to begin detox under the guidance of a professional.

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