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Kratom has been gaining a lot of media attention in the past year. Though it is not a new drug, more and more people are using the substance for a variety of reasons. One of the most controversial reasons is its use as an opioid replacement drug or even a withdrawal medication. Is this a myth? Or can kratom really ease the pain of opiate withdrawal?

What is Kratom?

Mitragyna Speciosa, commonly known as kratom, is an evergreen tree native to southeast Asia where it has been used in traditional medicine since the nineteenth century. Kratom does not derive from opium but it holds some of the same properties and has similar effects, so it has been commonly confused as well as commonly used as a replacement. Replacing opium with this plant has been reported as early as 1836. Medical benefits include pain relief, increased appetite, mood stabilization, and most recently as well as commonly, opiate detox assistance.

Is It a drug?

Kratom is, in fact, a mind altering substance that the DEA had announced in 2016 to rule as a Schedule-I drug along with heroin, LSD, and MDMA. Schedule-I is classified as the most illegal illicit substances due to a high potential for abuse and lack of medical value. Due to the public backlash, that statement has been revoked after recent studies proving that kratom could serve pertinent medical purposes. Around 78 people die per day from opioid overdoses in The United States alone.

While the DEA is quick to react to the sprouting of new potentially harmful drugs, they are well aware that the Opiate epidemic is well out of hand already and the growing number of deaths is a serious cause for concern, which is why any hope of reversing this epidemic is being closely examined. This opioid replacing plant, in this case, could be the lesser of two evils, seeing that many opiate addicts have already made the switch.

How is Kratom taken?

Traditionally the leaves have been chewed for pain relief, an increase of energy, and an increase of sexual drive. Kratom leaves have a bitter taste so it is common to try masking the taste with other foods or flavors. People have done this by crushing the leaves and letting it sit in water to create a tea. Today its is often taken in a condensed powder form. Users can take a spoon full and wash it down with water or mixed into a drink or shake. The powder can also be capsuled and swallowed to avoid the taste altogether. Lower doses of kratom are used for an energetic effect while a larger dose will promote relaxation. Kratom takes effect within 30 minutes of ingestion and lasts anywhere between 2-8 hours depending on, tolerance, amount and the user’s size.

Kratom targets the same part of the brain as opiates and has similar effects like pain relief and euphoria with less chance of respiratory depression and severe physical addiction. Weening off kratom is exponentially less painful than detoxing from opiates. However, it is possible for kratom to cause a psychological addiction which is a cause for concern.

Can kratom help with opiate withdrawals?

Yes. it has been obvious that kratom has a medical benefit for relieving painful detox symptoms and if often used for that reason. Kratom’s similar effects can assist the user through the painful process while subsiding cravings. This drug is the only substance outside of the opioid family to affect opioid receptors in the brain. The effects are subtle in comparison, but the user will have a similar, pain reducing and euphoric feeling which can greatly settle the craving for opiates.

What’s the catch?

Kratom is still under investigation. It recently became very popular for people who wanted a shift from opiates. Kratom capsules and powder is currently available and on display at your local smoke shop. You can easily find it for order online with a simple google search. It is not currently regulated but we can see how that may not last long as it could become a prescription medicine in the near future.

The chance of becoming psychologically addicted to this drug is still very possible, so caution and moderation should be always be practiced. Another major concern is that it is common for addicts to use a substance like kratom to subdue detox symptoms and then continuing their preferred drug-of-choice later on, which can lower tolerance and increases the chances of overdosing on the illicit drug-of-choice. Another consideration is possible side effects. Nausea and vomiting are common while using kratom. There are also symptoms similar to opiate withdrawal if one stops taking kratom abruptly following habitual use.

While kratom can, in fact, assist with detoxing from opiates, it is never recommended that anyone attempt to remedy their own drug detox process at home. Detoxing from opiates can be a very painful and traumatic process. It can be physically damaging to your body and the severity of craving for opiates at that point can be irresistible. It is always best to ask for help and go through this process where you can be monitored by medical professionals. Medical detoxes are available for patients going through severe withdrawals or people who have a tendency to relapse before finishing their detox process.