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Can Kratom Be Used for Heroin Withdrawal? (Is it Effective?)

With the opioid crisis in full force, addiction specialists, doctors, and government officials have been working together to seek solutions to fight heroin addiction and overdose. The numbers are staggering, and nearly 130 people lose their lives each day from an opioid overdose. With the overprescribing of prescription drugs and the strict laws that followed, it was the perfect recipe for disaster, and the country is feeling the effects directly as well as indirectly. 

If we are not affected personally, it’s likely that we know someone who is struggling. It is all too common today, which has made finding drugs to combat the crisis essential. The reality is that many people who are addicted to heroin don’t want to be, and they’re trapped in their disease with no way out. Many have looked to other drugs to help them cope with the symptoms because heroin withdrawal is severe.

Many drug users have turned to a substance called kratom to extinguish the fire of the opioid crisis. Kratom is a drug that has a long history but is relatively new in the United States. The substance originates from East Asia and has made its way into both recreational users lives as well as research laboratories.

Improper use of the naturally occurring material was reported to poison control 263 times in 2015, and as it gains popularity, the numbers will steadily rise. As you’d find with most drugs, it has its fair share of adverse effects, but is it the drug we need to combat opioid addiction?

Many have already started using kratom, too, and kratom has been linked to treating opium addiction in Asia as far back as 1836. Others have been self-administering the drug for opioid relief because kratom can be used as an opiate substitute.

As mentioned above, heroin withdrawal can often be met with resistance due to the extreme discomfort it produces, and some medications are used to manage symptoms, but come with side effects and addictive qualities of their own. Is kratom a drug that can emerge as the difference maker in the fight against opioids? Or do the dangers outweigh the potential benefits?

How Does Kratom Work?

Kratom is a drug that defies logic in terms of what it is. It originates from the leaves of an evergreen tree in Southeast Asia that is similar to coffee plants. It has been used in these areas for decades to manage pain and opioid withdrawal. The leaves are used to brew a tea that has several psychoactive effects, but as a drug, it is difficult to define. Depending on the dose you consume, it can produce results similar to opioids that provide pain relief and relaxation, but lower doses can cause nervous system excitement like a stimulant.

Kratom possesses various naturally occurring psychoactive chemicals in its leaves. There are more than 25 alkaloids in the kratom plant. There are two primary compounds that most likely have the most potent effects, which are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. These are both said to have pain-relieving effects.

How kratom works in the brain is still unknown, but we do know that mitragynine and 7-HMG act as mild partial opioid agonists. It means that the chemical compounds found in the brain binding to opioid receptors in the nervous system activating them to cause mild opioid effects. While 7-HMG exists in the plant in small amounts, it has a stronger affinity and binds more readily.

Other drugs that partially agonize the opioids receptors have had success as opioid addiction and withdrawal medications. Usually, the partial binding is enough to ease withdrawal symptoms without causing euphoria. 

Is Self-Treatment Safe?

Kratom use is increasing on the street. It is evident by people who are sharing their experiences with the substance on internet forums. As new cases of kratom overdose and poisoning are reported, states are starting to take notice and outlaw the drug. Currently, kratom is banned in six states and Washington, D.C.

Despite its legal obstacles, it has received attention nationwide for its adverse effects and as a do-it-yourself opioid withdrawal remedy. It is still legal in many states, and its ability to bind to opioid receptors makes it an ideal option for those looking to overcome opioid dependence, or for those that are addicted and can no longer acquire prescription opioids. Users report successfully treating opioid withdrawal symptoms and weaning of the drug.

There is still much to learn about kratom, and even though there have been many anecdotal reports of its effectiveness, it can still be dangerous when misused. The drug is often unpredictable when self-administered, and most recent reports highlight a significant increase in overdose deaths from kratom.

Adverse Effects of Kratom

Though much research is necessary to determine the full range of effects and side effects of kratom, there are several reports of adverse reactions. As with most drugs, kratom has the potential to cause side effects that result from casual use. Several symptoms seem to be on par with typical opioid use, and some side effects that come from stimulant use.

Adverse reactions can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased urination

Studies also have shown that more severe side effects that can be triggered by moderate-to-heavy kratom use. When consuming the amount necessary to cause opioid-like effects, you may also feel tachycardia, constipation, dry mouth, hypotension, and sweating. With many high doses, you may also experience tremors, anorexia, weight loss, and seizures. Additionally, it can cause dangerous psychological symptoms such as aggression, hostility, and psychosis.

High doses can increase the potential for toxic effects of kratom. A study highlighted how kratom could cause intrahepatic, cholestasis, seizure, arrhythmia, impair memory function, coma, and death in some people. Severe medical problems may occur with kratom use, and the benefits seem to pale in comparison to the apparent dangers.

Several studies and reviews of kratom’s usefulness and safety have come to the same conclusion: data analysis has not determined if the biochemical benefits of kratom may prove to outweigh its toxicity or risks. While most researchers believe kratom is worth studying more extensively, initial reports detail how dangerous it is as a viable treatment option.

If someone you know has been using kratom to cope with heroin addiction, it is likely they are trading one addiction for another. It’s crucial that they get help, and entering into treatment for heroin addiction can get to the root of the problem. 

Call Serenity at Summit for Heroin Withdrawal Today

Heroin addiction has the potential to steal someone’s family, home, and life without proper treatment. Using kratom is like trading one addiction for another, and will not solve the problem. Fortunately, heroin addiction is a treatable disease with advances in modern addiction treatment. The hardest part should be admitting to the problem and overcoming it, not choosing a treatment center. 

If you or a loved one is battling heroin addiction, they must seek treatment immediately. Our addiction specialists at Serenity at Summit are ready to listen to your story today. Feel free to give us a call 844-326-4514 or contact us online to learn more about how we can help.

Sources

Notes from the Field: Unintentional Drug Overdose Deaths with Kratom Detected – 27 States, July 2016–December 2017 | MMWR. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6814a2.htm

Kratom Legality Map. (2019, February 13). Retrieved from http://speciosa.org/home/kratom-legality-map/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Kratom. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/kratom

Notes from the Field: Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) Exposures Reported to Poison Centers – United States, 2010–2015 | MMWR. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6529a4.htm

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

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