Is Kratom an Opioid?

is-Is Kratom an opioid

What Is Kratom?

A new compound with effects similar to opioids has been gaining popularity in the United States. Kratom is native to Southeast Asia, and many believe it has medicinal purposes. However, many medical experts worry that people struggling with opioid addiction use Kratom to replace their addiction. So, two main questions require answers: Is Kratom an opioid? And Should it be made illegal? Continue reading for the discussion below.

Although Kratom appeared in the United States and Europe relatively recently, Southeast Asians have been using it for centuries. The drug is derived from the kratom plant, Mitragyna speciosa, related to the coffee tree. Recreational kratom use is widespread in Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia. People in this area chew kratom leaves, leading to a mild stimulant effect. At higher doses, the drug has sedative properties similar to opioids. The euphoria associated with higher doses of Kratom lasts several hours.

Kratom was first billed as a medicinal substance that can be particularly useful for people suffering from opioid dependence. The rationale is that Kratom may be less addictive than prescription opioids or heroin. Thus, some encouraged heroin users to use Kratom to soothe their withdrawal symptoms without furthering their drug dependence. Kratom also has pain-relieving effects, causing some people to take it as a “natural” alternative to prescription opioids. Unfortunately, new evidence suggests that Kratom itself may be addictive, causing people suffering from opioid dependence to shift from one drug to another.

Does Kratom Act on Opioid Receptors?

The exact chemical and physiological properties of Kratom are unknown. However, the drug stimulates the same brain receptors as other opiates, such as morphine. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a detailed analysis of Kratom. Scientists found that 22 of the 25 compounds within kratom bind to the mu-opioid receptors. They also found that these compounds bind strongly to the body’s opioid receptors compared to prescription opioid drugs. As a result, this study provided further evidence that Kratom should be classified as an opioid.

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Is Kratom Legal?

The increasing popularity of Kratom points to a hole in the U.S. system governing drugs’ legality with the abuse potential. When Kratom first appeared in the United States, it was not a regulated substance. Thus, people can legally sell Kratom over the Internet and in bars. In addition, it is possible to purchase Kratom in numerous forms, including whole or crushed leaves, powder, extract, resin, and capsules.

Because the drug has recently hit the United States, it has not been deemed a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Additionally, the FDA does not regulate its sale as a botanical supplement. This leaves Kratom in legal limbo at the federal level, with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) aware of its impact but unable to regulate its use.

Despite this, numerous states have moved to make the possession and sale of Kratom illegal. For example, in May 2016, Alabama became the sixth state in the U.S. to make Kratom illegal. In addition, several other states, including Florida, Kentucky, and Georgia, have pending legislation to make the drug illegal. Thus, it is important to check state and local legislation before using Kratom, as its legality may differ from state to state.

Kratom Withdrawal

Like other opiates, Kratom may lead to withdrawal syndrome. Kratom withdrawal symptoms are similar to that of prescription opioids or heroin. Acute symptoms include constipation, increased need to urinate, loss of appetite, nausea, sweating, and itching. The kratom withdrawal syndrome may induce runny nose, muscle aches, bone aches, involuntary limb movements, emotional lability, and aggression. In some cases, kratom effects may even include hallucinations or psychosis. 

Some people use Kratom to avoid opioid withdrawal symptoms because Kratom is much easier to buy than prescription drugs.

Kratom is often used at social gatherings and in other public recreational settings—people who use Kratom often state that the drug is plant-based, natural, and safe. However, the level of active ingredients in kratom plants can vary considerably, making it hard to gauge the effectiveness and risks of a given dose. In other words, depending on what is in the plant and the health of the user, taking Kratom may be very dangerous.

Side Effects and Risks

The more researchers study Kratom, the more they believe its side effects and risks are much greater than its potential benefits. As a result, the FDA warned the public about the risk of seizures and respiratory depression. Poison control centers in the U.S. received about 1,800 accident statements involving using Kratom from 2011 through 2017, including reports of death. 

Kratom has serious side effects on the mind and nervous system, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Depression 
  • Breathing issues
  • Seizure, coma, and death

Furthermore, this drug has been reported to cause abnormal brain function when combined with other prescription drugs. Usually, when an abnormal brain function occurs, people experience severe headaches and lose their ability to communicate or become confused.

The government does not currently regulate Kratom sales in the United States, and federal agencies are taking action to combat false kratom claims.  

Kratom Detox and Addiction Treatment

Detox is much more successful when performed in a facility with around-the-clock supervision and access to medical health professionals. In addition, medically assisted detox can help reduce the intensity of kratom withdrawal and adverse health events related to drug detox.

Since regular toxicology screenings don’t often include Kratom upon entrance into a detox program, it is essential to be upfront about Kratom or any other substances in your system. Therefore, providers can use appropriate medications during the detoxification period for safety and effectiveness.

Naltrexone and Kratom Interaction

Antagonist drugs such as Naltrexone or Vivitrol can cause a severe adverse interaction when Kratom is still in the system. The combination of Naltrexone and Kratom can make people uncomfortable and risky precipitated withdrawal. Being upfront with your treating doctor can help you get the successful detox treatment you want and deserve. Full disclosure also helps make the treatment experience much smoother, more comfortable, and more effective.

Conclusion: Is Kratom an Opioid?

Kratom can be safely classified as an opioid drug because it stimulates mu-opioid receptors. However, like other opiates, chronic use of Kratom may lead to drug dependence and addiction.

Waismann Detox™ is located in a private accredited hospital in So. California. Our team of experienced professional practitioners helps patients go through the detoxification phase rapidly, safely, and comfortably. After rapid detox, patients have a wide range of services to seamlessly transition to the next recovery step. While the Kratom detox is not easy, many people recognize that it is not nearly as intense, painful, or uncomfortable as anticipated. At Waismann Detox™, we provide the assistance and support to help you build the foundations needed to maintain long-term sobriety.

Kratom, an Addict’s Alternative, Is Found to Be Addictive Itself, The New York Times
People are flocking to Florida bars for a legal but dangerous drug, Business Insider.
KRATOM (Mitragyna speciosa Korth), Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control, Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section 
FDA Commissioner on the Agency’s Scientific Evidence on the Presence of Opioid Compounds in Kratom
Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Drug Fact Sheet: Kratom
Healthline: What to Expect from Kratom Withdrawal
Mayo Clinic: Kratom: Unsafe and Ineffective
Drug Forum: Kratom while on naltrexone (Vivitrol) injection