Kratom, known by the scientific name Mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical evergreen tree found in Southeast Asia. It’s also an intoxicant used both in traditional medicine and by young people to get high. This drug has come to the attention of authorities and addiction specialists only recently, especially because some of the side effects have been found to be dangerous or even fatal.
Kratom appears to have effects similar to opiates and has even been used in an attempt to treat opioid addiction. Users report feelings of euphoria and wellbeing, relaxation, increased energy, increased sociability, pain relief, and sensory enhancement. Many also report negative side effects, with around 15 percent experiencing nausea or stomach upset. Ten percent also said that they experienced symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal.
Physical dependence and addiction are concerns with this drug, though research on these effects is preliminary. The more pressing concern to many governments and health professionals are incoming reports of dangerous side effects. Despite the low rate of use of kratom in the US, the nation’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) found 15 cases of death related to the drug between 2014 and 2016. This led to the administration’s announcement of its intent to schedule kratom in the near future.
Just like with the positive effects, the negative side effects of kratom are similar to those of opioids. They can include:
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
- Increased urination
- Bowel obstruction
- Increased heart rate
- Respiratory depression
Most of these effects are short-term and will quickly disappear if intake of the drug stops. However, some of the more severe symptoms can lead to permanent damage. Bowel obstruction can be very dangerous and result in damage to the bowel or the necessity to remove part of the bowel to fix the obstruction. Respiratory depression, if severe enough, can result in an inability to get enough oxygen to the brain. This leads to a life-threatening condition called hypoxia that can result in rapid cell death and brain damage – the effects of which are often unpredictable and debilitating.
Addiction and Withdrawal
Though it can’t be said for sure if kratom is addictive, addiction to a drug like this could be very dangerous considering the potential for life-threatening side effects. Generally, the longer someone takes an intoxicating drug like kratom, the more likely it becomes that they will experience the more severe side effects of the drug.
It does appear that people can suffer from withdrawal symptoms after long-term and frequent use of kratom. Though these are considered to be mild in comparison to withdrawal from other drugs, they can still be quite unpleasant and make it more difficult to stop taking kratom.
Kratom withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Muscle and bone aches
- Jerking movements of the limbs
- Mood swings
Though hallucinations and delusions can be very disturbing, as long as the individual is supervised, even these severe withdrawal symptoms shouldn’t be dangerous.
Though people may assume that kratom is a safer drug due to the fact that it comes from a natural source, many plants are toxic to humans and shouldn’t be consumed. Until more research is done on this drug, any use of it is potentially dangerous and should be avoided.