The United States has recently turned its attention to cracking down on opioids and their abuse. While Kratom, a psychoactive drug derived from a tree in southeast Asia, isn’t an opioid itself, it behaves similarly to one, binding to receptors in the brain and blocking the sensation of pain. It has a wide variety of uses around the world, including as a dietary supplement, but in the U.S.it is being used increasingly as a recreational drug. While its import into the United States has been banned by the FDA, Kratom still isn’t recognized as a controlled substance, thus it’s easily accessible across the country (though some states have enacted their own laws against it).
While users contend that low doses can be used safely for an energy boost and all-natural pain relief, the reality is that Kratom is a very addictive substance with long-lasting complications. Those who become dependent on it face serious health consequences including death. Whether consumed as a pill, an additive, or smoked, the effects are the same, as are the dangers. To better deal with these hazards, it’s best to learn about what the drug is, how it works, the side effects, and withdrawal symptoms.
What Are Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms?
Kratom leaves contain many of the same compounds found in opioids. Small doses have been used as a natural, inexpensive pain reliever in its countries of origin. However, because it works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, one eventually builds up a tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect. At a high enough dose, Kratom has the same observable effect as morphine and other heavy-duty pain killers, creating a feeling of euphoria. All of this naturally lends itself to addiction. Worse still, some use Kratom to try and wean themselves off of other substances, like opioids, trading in one addiction for another.
Stopping Kratom use is important, but not always simple. Kratom withdrawal symptoms have been reported by users around the world. The most common of these include:
- Body pains and spasms
- States of psychosis, including hallucinations
- Aggressive attitudes and other mood swings
- Nausea and flu-like symptoms
- Loss of appetite
- Dizziness, headaches, and migraines
These Kratom withdrawal side effects bear a striking resemblance to those experienced while using the substance. However, this is a natural part of the quitting process and shouldn’t be viewed as a sign that something has gone wrong. Sometimes, users will note the similarities between the symptoms they feel while quitting and those they felt while using and see it as a justification to keep abusing Kratom.
However, with continued use comes more urgent side effects, such as:
- Psychological damage, including psychosis and hallucinations
- Development of eating disorders
- Development of seizure disorders
- Cardiovascular damage
- Neurological damage
- Organ damage
- Death can also result from extended use.
How Long Does Kratom Withdrawal Last?
Kratom’s use as a drug has only recently been studied. As a result, there isn’t a concrete answer to how long do Kratom withdrawal symptoms last. Due to its similarities to opioids, the medical community has so far chosen to model the Kratom detox timeline on those more widely studied drugs.
The first twelve hours: measuring from your last dose, side effects of withdrawal should set in no later than twelve hours later. However, this number can vary depending on the length of use and dosage. The first set of side effects will be mild during this stage. Physical symptoms will typically involve loss of appetite, nausea, and a general feeling of illness. Mentally, you may feel more on edge and irritable as your body signals it wants another dose.
First full day to the third full day. Of all the Kratom withdrawal stages, this is the worst. Your Kratom withdrawal symptoms will increase in severity (read above for the full list) as your body sends its strongest signals for another dose. The fear, panic, and pain they cause make it easy to give up and return to the drug, however, by the time this stage ends the worst is usually over.
Day four and beyond. Once you’ve made it here the Kratom withdrawal side effects begin to ebb until they vanish, starting with the physical symptoms. This process can be over in a few days, however, how long they last depend on factors that change from person to person.
Kratom withdrawal death is something of an unknown factor. The FDA reported forty-four cases of Kratom-related death in 2018. Most of these cases, they observed, were the result of a fatal interaction between Kratom and prescribed medications, or the inclusion of other illicit substances with the Kratom. More studies need to be done to determine if withdrawal from Kratom has the potential to be fatal.
Kratom Detox Guidelines
To put it simply, detoxing is a process wherein one tries to reset or “purify” their body of toxins. However, it is a process that’s often misunderstood, thanks largely in part to its use in homeopathic circles. In the medical community, detoxing rarely means stopping the use of a drug or alcohol all at once. The brain has created a chemical dependence and needs time to restore its normal functions in the absence of drug use. Stopping cold turkey can send your brain into overdrive during this process, making withdrawal symptoms much more severe and making quitting, in general, more difficult.
Medical practitioners may instead use a process called tapering to curb and ultimately kick a Kratom addiction. Tapering just means gradually lowering the dose over some time until its effects are negligible and use can be stopped with minimal to no ill effects. While tapering the brain will have an easier time to compensate for the reduced chemicals being used, greatly lowering the impact of side effects.
Detox should never be attempted without the supervision of a medical professional, however. Their expertise can best determine the right dosages to use while tapering. Moreover, medical staff can observe you in a safe environment for adverse changes and can make adjustments accordingly. This is especially important if you are on a regiment of prescription medication. Different facilities will have different programs, each with their own focuses and approaches. Choosing one that you’re comfortable with is vital to your treatment’s success.
In-home outpatient detox programs also exist, allowing you to overcome your Kratom addiction without having to spend time away from your responsibilities at home or work. Medical staff will visit and consult with you regularly to determine the next step in your treatment. In outpatient care, you have to be honest and observant of yourself, however, because you won’t be under observation nearly as much as you would be in a medical facility.
Hospitalization may be necessary to treat situations like overdoses or organ damage. However, after hospitalization one of the two above types of treatment plans will usually occur.
Putting a strict timetable on a detox is difficult. How quickly your brain can return to its normal functions can depend on things like genetic history, the amount of Kratom used, history of addictive substance use in general, and prescription medications being used at the time. But success isn’t based on reaching a set number of days: it’s about sticking to your plan and having patience.