Kratom Opiate Withdrawal Treatment?
Opioid abuse is a growing epidemic in American society. A natural drug known as kratom is gaining buzz as a possible intervention that could become part of the opiate abuse solution. In addition to the possibly beneficial medicinal kratom effects, however, there is a risk of developing kratom dependency. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that rates of prescription painkiller overdose have quadrupled over the past 17 years. Therefore, something needs to be done to improve access to successful treatments. Understanding its therapeutic effects, as well as its possible dangers, can help people make informed decisions about treatment. Unfortunately, some of the drawbacks of kratom, such as the possibility of kratom addiction, limit its effectiveness as a treatment for opiate abuse.
What is Kratom?
The drug Kratom is derived from a Southeast Asian tropical deciduous tree species known as Mitragyna speciosa native to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The tree grows in a tropical climate and is related to the coffee plant. The leaves of the plant contain the chemicals that have medicinal properties. It is a member of the Rubiaceae family, and people consume it either by chewing, smoking, ingesting in capsules, or drinking in a tea. The effects in low doses are an opioid-like depressant and at higher doses, euphoric.
To understand and what is Kratom, you also need to learn what its uses. There are more than 40 alkaloid chemicals in kratom leaves that are its active ingredients. It is one of the only natural, non-poppy sources of opiates discovered in the world. As such, its chemicals work in the body and brain to block pain.
The primary alkaloid chemical found in kratom is mitragynine. Mitragynine binds to two types of opioid receptors in the brain. Although the exact properties of other kratom chemicals are unknown, mitragynine is thought to have a lower affinity for the opiate receptors than drugs such as morphine. This means that it is a less potent opioid than morphine and other opioid painkillers.
Traditionally, Southeast Asians used kratom to treat pain and discomfort from arthritis, restless legs, fibromyalgia and a range of other illnesses. People in Asia traditionally used kratom by chewing its leaves. Now, it is available to American consumers in the form of pills, powder, tea, or a resin-like extract. It may be useful in treating pain, high blood pressure, depression, diarrhea, or coughing. However, studies of its effectiveness in humans are extremely limited.
Kratom Effects and Possible Treatment for Opiate Addiction
Currently, there is interest in the opiate treatment community to develop medication-assisted treatment options. The theory is that if people struggling with addiction can take a medication to wean themselves off of opioids, treatment efforts will be more successful. This approach depends on finding drugs that are safe, effective, and non-addictive to users.
Some propose Kratom as an all-natural supplement that can help people addicted to opiates break free of the drug. They believe the kratom effects are less potent than other opioids, so users could gradually wean themselves from heroin or opioid painkillers. Some anecdotal reports from opioid users claim that kratom is effective to use in this way, but controlled scientific studies do not exist to support these claims.
Unfortunately, this approach depends on replacing one form of opioids with another. Kratom appears to be addictive in its own right, meaning that people using it in an attempt to quit opioids may end up experiencing addiction to kratom. There have been numerous reports of people developing kratom dependency, suggesting that it may be an ineffective and even harmful way to treat opioid dependence.
Is Kratom Addictive?
One of the most severe limitations of the use of kratom to treat opioid addiction is that there is insufficient scientific evidence about its effectiveness for this purpose. Typically, before recommending a new drug to the community, scientists carry out studies to determine its chemical properties, how strongly it binds to sites in the brain, its ability to reduce opiate addiction, and its long-term effects. Nearly all of these variables remain unknown in humans.
Kratom Dependence and Harmful Effects
Furthermore, kratom may be toxic and even deadly. At low doses, kratom has a mild stimulant effect, while it is a central nervous system depressant at higher doses. Even at low to moderate doses, kratom can lead to potentially harmful side effects. These include: tachycardia (rapid heart rate), high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, feelings of agitation, decreased the frequency of breathing, confusion, sweating, and tremor. In more severe cases, kratom can lead to seizures and coma.
There has been a significant uptick in reports of kratom toxicity to poison control centers since 2008; when it began growing in popularity in the United States. These statements include several fatalities. Kratom may be particularly dangerous when taken with other drugs, such as benzodiazepines, other opioid medications, or even nasal decongestants.
As of early 2016, four states banned kratom, with more states considering legislation to ban the drug. The Food and Drug Association has moved to seize the drug and make it a controlled substance. Furthermore, the European Union and parts of Asia have also banned it. This is because of its dangerous effects and the potential for kratom addiction.