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Kratom: What it Is, where it Came From, & Why Everyone’s Concerned



Kratom is a drug that’s grown in southeast Asia, and it gives people a feeling of euphoria. 

It’s also used to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms, but there are concerns that kratom itself can be addictive. 

Some health agencies recently issued a warning about kratom after receiving reports of people getting sick from taking it. 

In this article, we’ll cover what kratom is and how it works so you can decide for yourself whether or not to try it.


Table of Contents

Kratom is a tree native to Southeast Asia

Kratom is a tree native to southeast Asia, where it grows in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. 

It’s also known as ketum or biak-biak. The leaves of the plant have been used for centuries by people in these areas as an herbal remedy for various conditions—including pain relief and opium withdrawal

—and more recently they’ve become popular with Westerners looking for alternatives to traditional prescription medications like opioids or antidepressants.


Some people take kratom to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms

Some people use kratom to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms. The substance is not a good solution for opioid withdrawal, though; it isn’t a safe alternative to opioids.

Kratom acts on the same receptors in the brain as opioids do. It’s often used by people trying to wean themselves off heroin or prescription painkillers like oxycodone (OxyContin). 

These drugs attach to opioid receptors in your body and brain, which produces euphoria or pain relief depending on which receptor they target.

Kratom works in much the same way as prescription painkillers—but there are some crucial differences: 

Kratom can be addictive itself; you may build up a tolerance over time so you have to consume more each day; kratom can cause side effects like nausea and vomiting; if you stop taking it suddenly after using it regularly over a long period, you could experience withdrawal symptoms including anxiety/restlessness, insomnia/nightmares/insomnia-like symptoms, muscle aches/pains/stiffness (especially neck/back), runny nose with sneezing (more common), sweating.


Kratom's side effects can be dangerous

Kratom’s side effects can be dangerous. Some people have experienced nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite while using kratom. 

Others have reported constipation or diarrhea as a result of taking this substance. 

Kratom use may also cause drowsiness and dizziness, as well as loss of coordination and difficulty with speech, thinking and movement (called “cerebral hyperactivity”).

In addition to symptoms like these that are more common with kratom use, there are also potential side effects that may occur on occasion but aren’t as commonly associated with it: anxiety; blurred vision; chills; confusion; hallucinations; loss of consciousness; seizures (convulsions); slurred speech.


Kratom addiction and dependence is real

Kratom addicts will experience cravings, withdrawals, and compulsive behaviors when they’re not using the drug. 

Kratom is listed as a DEA Schedule 1 drug—the most regulated category of drugs under federal law—and it’s been linked to several deaths in recent years. 

Some people who have used kratom for pain management or anxiety relief end up addicted to both prescription medications and street drugs after finding that kratom doesn’t provide enough relief from their symptoms.

It’s important to note that just because you use kratom doesn’t mean you’re addicted; some people do find it helpful for pain management or anxiety treatment without experiencing any negative side effects from long-term use (or even short-term). 

But there are certainly cases where individuals become dependent on this substance and need help getting off of it safely and effectively.

Kratom may be addictive even when you don’t use it for opioid withdrawal

Some people say they are addicted to kratom. There are reports of withdrawal symptoms such as cravings and irritability when a person stops using it. However, there is no consensus on whether kratom is addictive.

Kratom has psychoactive effects, similar to opioids like morphine and heroin. Some people have abused kratom by taking high doses or mixing it with other drugs (called “polydrug abuse”). 

This can increase the risk of serious health side effects—in fact, according to some studies and reviews of scientific literature by researchers at Columbia University in New York City and the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda Maryland who published their findings in The American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse.

There are other drugs that can help you quit opioids without putting your health at risk

  • Tell your doctor about the withdrawal symptoms you’re experiencing and ask about safer alternatives to help you get through it.
  • Talk to your doctor about buprenorphine, which is known as Suboxone or Subutex in pill form or Bunavail in film strip form. You need a prescription for this drug, but once you have one it can be used safely at home with no risk of overdose and few side effects. Buprenorphine binds to opioid receptors in the brain, effectively blocking pain receptors while also reducing some of the symptoms of withdrawal. It’s so effective that many treatment facilities give patients who are trying to quit opioids a prescription for this medicine before they leave treatment so they don’t go right back into active addiction.
  • Methadone is another common treatment for opioid dependence; it comes either as an oral liquid solution that needs refrigeration or as tablets that can be taken any time of day without worrying about them going bad if left out overnight (although methadone hydrochloride tablets should be stored at room temperature). Patients on methadone will still experience some withdrawal symptoms when stopping their medication abruptly (such as cold sweats), but these effects are less severe than if they had tried quitting “cold turkey” using other methods like self-detoxing with Kratom alone.


If you’re thinking about using kratom to ease opioid withdrawal, talk with your doctor first

If you’re thinking about using kratom to ease opioid withdrawal, talk with your doctor first. 

Don’t use kratom without a doctor’s advice. Kratom can interact with other drugs you are taking and may be addictive even when used for opioid withdrawal. 

You should also be aware that there are other drugs that can help you quit opioids without putting your health at risk.



As we’ve seen, kratom is a drug that can be beneficial for some people but dangerous for others. 

It’s essential to know your body—and listen to your doctor’s advice—before deciding whether taking this substance would be right for you. 

Kratom can be addictive even when it’s not used as an opioid substitute or withdrawal aid, which means that you might end up struggling with addiction even if you don’t use kratom to get off painkillers in the first place. 

And while some studies have found that kratom can help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings, other research has shown adverse side effects or lack of efficacy when taken regularly over long periods such as six months or more.


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