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Is Kratom a Drug?

Is Kratom a drug? Read on to learn more about kratom’s psychoactive properties, medicinal potential, and treatment options for dependence.

Kratom 101: Understanding Its Roots

Kratom, also known by its scientific name Mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia. It’s part of the coffee family. For centuries, this plant has been used in traditional medicine and cultural ceremonies. But is kratom a drug as well?

is Kratom a drug

Table of Contents

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History and Origins of Kratom

Kratom comes from Southeast Asia, from countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea. Indigenous communities use the tree for medicine and cultural reasons.
Historically, kratom leaves were chewed or brewed into a tea for its stimulant, analgesic, and sedative effects. It was also used as a natural remedy for various conditions such as pain, diarrhea, and fatigue.
In some cultures, kratom is used in religious ceremonies and community gatherings. It was seen as a way to enhance sociability, alleviate mood, and foster a sense of community among its users.

Kratom Varieties and Strains

There are four main types of kratom based on the color of the veins. The different colors represent the different levels of maturity of the leaves and their alkaloid content. Each variety has unique properties and effects on the body.
These types include:
  • Red Vein Kratom: This is the most popular and widely available strain. It is known for its sedative and pain-relieving effects. Red vein kratom is often used by individuals looking to relax or unwind.
  • Green Vein Kratom: A middle ground between red and white strains, green vein kratom offers a balanced effect. It is commonly used as a mood enhancer or energy booster.
  • White Vein Kratom: White vein strains are harvested earlier than the red or green strains. They are best known for their stimulant effects, providing increased energy, alertness, and focus. Many users prefer white vein kratom as a replacement for caffeine to jumpstart their day.
  • Yellow and Gold Kratom: These are not natural vein colors but are produced through a specialized fermentation process. The effects of yellow and gold strains can vary, but they typically fall between green and red strains in terms of potency and effects.

Kratom's Legal and Classification Landscape

The classification of kratom is a debated issue. Some believe it’s a natural supplement with healing abilities, while others often question “is kratom a drug?”
Some opponents argue that it should be treated as a drug due to its mind-altering effects and potential for abuse. This tug of war has left kratom in a legal gray area, with its classification varying from country to country.

Legal Status Worldwide

Currently, kratom is illegal in several countries, including Australia, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom.
Is kratom a drug in the U.S.? In the United States, kratom is not currently federally regulated, but some states have banned its sale and possession. These include Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

The FDA's Position and Guidelines

The FDA does not classify kratom as a dietary supplement or an approved drug. The agency has issued several warnings and advisories against its use, citing potential risks such as addiction and respiratory depression.1 

Inside Kratom: Chemical Composition and Effects

Alkaloids are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants, some of which have psychoactive effects on the human body. These compounds can affect the receptors in our brain and nervous system, changing how we think and act.
Kratom contains over 40 alkaloids, with the most abundant being mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.2 

Principal Alkaloids and Their Impact

Mitragynine is the primary alkaloid found in kratom. It acts on the body’s opioid receptors, producing sedative effects.
7-hydroxymitragynine, although present in smaller amounts, is believed to be more potent than mitragynine. It is responsible for kratom’s pain-relieving properties due to its strong affinity for the brain’s opioid receptors.
Other alkaloids found in kratom include paynantheine, speciociliatine, and ajmalicine. These compounds are thought to have anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, and antihypertensive properties. However, more research is needed to fully understand their impact on the human body.

Is Kratom a Drug?: Pharmacological Actions and Bodily Effects

Kratom’s alkaloids interact with receptors in our brain and nervous system, producing a range of effects.
The effects of kratom can vary depending on the user’s body chemistry, dosage, and strain. Some of the commonly reported effects include sedation, euphoria, stimulation, and mood enhancement.
The specific effects experienced depend on the dosage and strain of kratom used. Higher doses tend to produce more sedative effects, while lower doses are associated with stimulation and mood enhancement. However, individual reactions can vary greatly.

Kratom Consumption: Methods and Implications

As with any substance, the way kratom is consumed can greatly impact its effects on the body. There are various forms of kratom available in the market, each with its unique properties and potency.

Natural vs. Refined Kratom

Kratom typically comes in two forms: natural and refined. Natural kratom refers to the dried leaves of the plant, which can be chewed, brewed into tea, or consumed in powder form.
Refined kratom, on the other hand, has been processed to extract specific alkaloids and increase potency. This results in various forms such as extracts, capsules, and tinctures. Refined kratom often has a higher risk of side effects.

How Do People Consume Kratom?

There are several methods of consuming kratom, each with its level of potency and duration. The most common include:
  • Chewing Fresh Leaves: Provides a quick but moderate effect. It’s the most traditional method and allows users to control their intake.
  • Brewing as Tea: Brewing dried or powdered kratom in hot water results in a quicker onset of effects compared to ingestion methods. 
  • Direct Ingestion: Consuming kratom powder directly (often termed “toss and wash”) ensures that all of the alkaloids are ingested. The onset might be a bit slower than chewing or tea, but the effects can be potent.
  • Capsules: These are ideal for those who dislike kratom’s taste. The onset of effects is delayed due to the capsule’s dissolution, but the potency remains consistent with the amount of kratom in each capsule.
  • Extracts and Tinctures: Given their concentrated nature, these methods offer high potency and quick onset. However, they also carry a higher risk of overconsumption and potential side effects.

Is Kratom A Drug?: Usage Alongside Other Substances

While kratom is often used by itself, some people may choose to combine it with other substances. This can increase the potential for side effects and negative interactions.
Some common combinations include mixing kratom with:
  • Alcohol: Both kratom and alcohol can have sedative effects, which may be intensified when used together. This can increase the risk of overdose or respiratory depression.
  • Stimulants: Combining kratom with stimulant substances, such as caffeine or amphetamines, can lead to adverse reactions and potentially harm the cardiovascular system.
  • Opioids: People who use opioids might take kratom to amplify the analgesic effect or to help mitigate withdrawal symptoms. Combining the two can be particularly risky because of the potential for additive respiratory depression. This is a primary cause of opioid-related fatalities.
  • Benzodiazepines: Mixing kratom with benzodiazepines can lead to respiratory depression or other dangerous side effects. Benzodiazepines are also known for their addictive properties, further increasing the potential for dependence when combined with kratom.
  • Cannabis: Some users may choose to combine kratom with cannabis, as both substances have psychoactive properties. This may enhance relaxation or euphoria, but this combination can also intensify side effects like dizziness, sedation, or cognitive impairment.

The Potential Risks and Benefits of Kratom

Kratom has been used for centuries as a natural remedy and recreational substance. While it offers potential benefits, there are also risks associated with its use.
Is kratom a drug or a medicine? The answer is not straightforward, as it can act as both.
Here’s what we know about kratom’s potential uses and the associated risks:
  • Pain Relief: One of the most prominent uses of kratom is for pain management. The alkaloids provide analgesic effects that many users find beneficial for both acute and chronic pain.3 
  • Energy and Focus: At lower doses, kratom can act as a stimulant. Users often report enhanced energy, improved focus, and increased alertness. These can be beneficial for fatigue, work productivity, or tasks requiring concentration.
  • Mood Enhancement: Kratom has mood-enhancing properties, with some users experiencing feelings of euphoria, reduced anxiety, and uplifted spirits.
  • Opioid Withdrawal Relief: Some people have turned to kratom as a means to mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms. The alkaloids in kratom can offer similar effects to opioids, potentially easing the transition and reducing withdrawal intensity.4
  • Anti-Inflammatory: Some research suggests that kratom might possess anti-inflammatory properties attributed to its alkaloid content. This could be another reason it’s been traditionally used for pain and swelling.5 

Is Kratom a Drug That Can Lead to Addiction?

The alkaloids in kratom engage with the body’s opioid receptors, resulting in similar effects to opioids. This can lead to physical and psychological dependence on the substance. Additionally, the pleasurable effects of kratom can increase the risk of addiction in some individuals.

Several risk factors can contribute to the onset of a kratom dependence or tolerance, including:

  • Genetics: Some individuals may be more genetically predisposed to developing substance dependencies, including kratom. This is true for other substances as well. 
  • Mental Health: Co-occurring mental health disorders can increase the likelihood of developing a substance addiction, including kratom. 
  • Self-Medication: Self-medicating with kratom for underlying conditions like anxiety or depression can also lead to dependence.
  • Dosage: Taking higher doses increases the risk of developing a dependency to kratom.
  • Duration: Prolonged use over weeks, months, or years can escalate the likelihood of dependence.
  • Polydrug Use: Combining kratom with other substances can also amplify dependency risks.

Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms and Treatment Opportunities

When someone becomes dependent on kratom, abruptly stopping or reducing their use can result in a range of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms typically begin within 24 hours after the last dose and can last for up to a week or longer.
Some common withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Mood changes: Irritability, anxiety, or depression.
  • Physical discomfort: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and sweating.
  • Sleep disturbances: Insomnia or excessive sleepiness.
To minimize the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms and increase the likelihood of successful rehabilitation from kratom addiction, seeking professional treatment is crucial. Treatment programs may include:

Detoxification

If addiction is severe, medical detoxification may be necessary. Detox programs involve medically supervised cessation of kratom use. Supportive medications might be given to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Therapy

Individual or group therapy can help address underlying issues that contribute to addiction, develop coping mechanisms, and promote long-term recovery. Some therapies commonly used in treating substance addictions include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI).

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Sometimes medications may be prescribed in combination with therapy to aid recovery from kratom dependence. These may include buprenorphine or naltrexone, which can help manage cravings and reduce the risk of relapse.

Rehabilitation

Residential or outpatient rehabilitation programs offer a structured environment for individuals struggling with kratom addiction to focus on their recovery and learn healthy coping mechanisms. Ongoing support through aftercare services can also be beneficial in maintaining long-term sobriety.

Support Groups

Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can provide a supportive community for individuals in recovery from kratom addiction. These groups offer peer support, accountability, and a space to share experiences and struggles.

is Kratom a drug

Overcome Your Kratom Addiction With Ripple Ranch

Are you or someone you know struggling with kratom addiction? At Ripple Ranch, our mission is to provide comprehensive and compassionate treatment for individuals seeking recovery from substance use disorder.
Our approach is tailored to the unique needs of each individual, with a focus on long-term recovery and relapse prevention.

Why Choose Ripple Ranch for Kratom Addiction Treatment?

Ripple Ranch provides many benefits for our patients, including:
  • Expertise: Our team of medical professionals has extensive experience in treating substance abuse disorders, including kratom addiction. We use evidence-based practices and individualized treatment plans to address all aspects of addiction.
  • Compassionate Support: We understand that addiction recovery can be challenging, and we provide a nurturing and non-judgmental environment for our clients to heal. Our team is dedicated to supporting individuals throughout their journey to sobriety.
  • Holistic Approach: At Ripple Ranch, we believe in treating the whole person, not just the addiction. Our treatment plans incorporate holistic therapies such as yoga, meditation, and nutrition. These promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
  • Aftercare Services: We are committed to our clients’ long-term success, which is why we offer aftercare services to support their recovery even after completing our program. This may include ongoing therapy, support groups, and relapse prevention strategies.

Reach Out Today

Don’t let kratom addiction control your life any longer. Contact Ripple Ranch today to learn more about our addiction treatment services and how we can help you or your loved one.