While some people use kratom to help them withdraw from opium dependence, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) does not approve of it for medical use. Besides, the New York State Office on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NY OASAS) claims that a person can be addicted after several overdoses of this ‘drug of concern.’
In the South Asian countries, including Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia, kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) can be found. This is a native drug to the South Asian countries and is used to manage chronic pain, help with withdrawal from opium dependence, remain active, and treat several ailments. Still, the clinical tests regarding the safety, legality, and medical use fitness for this drug are limited. That’s why the DEA hasn’t approved of its use for medical purposes even though its use is common in some countries as a sedative and a stimulant. This article shares a few known facts about this drug of concern as of now.
The legality of kratom
While the drug has been legalized in the USA, Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia have not legalized it. The drug can be bought over-the-counter from stores in the USA and used as alternative medicine. The stores all sell kratom supplements for alternative medicine. Although the US has ‘technically legalized’ this drug and its supplements, there are associated risks with their intake revolving around an overdose, abuse, and addiction.
The usage and forms of kratom
In most cases, a small amount of kratom usage is associated with stimulant effects where a person stays more focused, becomes more sociable, and is more alert and aware of the environment. However, reports show that the drug makes people have dulling emotions when overdosed, among other euphoric effects. Reports have found few overdose cases; however, using kratom alongside alcohol and other drugs can cause the stated overdose effects.
Alkaloids, specifically mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, are the primary active ingredients in kratom. Some study results have evidence that links kratom with pain relief, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxation properties. Thus, fibromyalgia patients often use this drug to relieve pain. Kratom leaves are usually subjected to drying and crushing to form kratom powders, typically green or brown, and also found in the stores. Besides, the drug supplements can be found in capsules, paste, and tablets. Finally, people prepare (by brewing) kratom tea and use it to help with withdrawal from opium use and for self-management.
Kratom stimulant and sedative effects
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) states that just a few grams of kratom supplements will result in stimulant effects such as increased sociability, enhanced energy, increased focus and alertness, and reduced motor coordination. However, when taken in 10-15g dosages, sedative effects such as calmness and euphoria set in.
The controversy around kratom
Although kratom is technically legal in the US, there are many concerns around this drug, resulting in it being called the ‘drug of concern’ and the controversies around its usage and legality. First, clinical studies to determine its safety, harmful effects, harmful drug interactions, and effective yet not dangerous dosages are limited. Secondly, there is fear that the drug may contain as many hallucinogenic mushrooms and alkaloids as opium and may have the adverse side effects associated with opioid use, only that this has not been confirmed. The third concern has to do with the fact that the primary psychoactive ingredient in kratom, mitragynine, may possess opioid properties and lead to addictive and dependence syndrome, which presents in the form of tremor, sweating, inability to sleep, and nausea. Besides, its safety and handling practices are not supervised by FDA, meaning that its safe handling methods have not been set yet.
Possible dangers of kratom use
Reports have been generated about kratom use and its dangers. The following are the major dangers associated with kratom use;
When a person uses the drug regularly, over time, he may develop dependence. This happens when the brain pathways and the brain circuitry change; altering the brain opioid receptors and the feeling of happiness when the drug is used sets in. at this point, trying to stop the usage results in withdrawal syndrome. Such withdrawal effects include hostility, runny nose, mood swings, and tremor. For severe cases, confusion, delusions, and hallucinations set in. emotional signs of withdrawal syndrome includes feelings of pressure, depression, and anxiety. When full addiction sets in, a person turns to larger amounts of kratom to ease the negative results. This happens despite the economic, health, emotional, and social effects a person may already be experiencing due to the drug use.
Lack of regulation
Up until 2014, the FDA allowed the selling of kratom supplements as dietary and medical additives. However, when the increased concerns set in and many purported negative side effects were reported, the FDA banned kratom import. Currently, the drug can only be found in stores in tobacco labels where it goes with the name ‘incense.’ A person can also buy it online or walk into a bar and buy a drink sold as ‘ketum,’ which has kratom in the mix. The drug lacks standardization and regulation since it’s not a controlled substance. Therefore, whoever buys it risks getting something else being marketed as kratom (the FDA has not produced an official label for kratom) or using a substance that could have potentially hazardous substances mixed with it.
Possibility of negative interactions
The Nursing Show reports that taking kratom and other psychoactive substances could result in negative drug interactions. For instance, using kratom alongside other drugs has resulted in a seizure. Besides, taking other opioids with kratom could result in worsening anxiety and depression.
It goes without saying that some evidence has associated kratom usage with positive effects like focus, alertness, increased sociability, and enhanced energy. However, there are dangers associated with overdose and abuse of the drug, although these have not been confirmed. Such include insomnia, tremor, nausea, and depression in extreme cases. Besides, the FDA does not regulate the drug, meaning that there are no official labels for the right one, and a person may consume a toxic substance marketed as kratom or a substance whose potency is not known. In addition, addiction and dependence may result after regular use of kratom. Therefore, before deciding to use the drug, a person needs to weigh both sides of this drug of concern.