Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tree-like plant from Southeast Asia that belongs to the same family of plants as coffee and gardens. Kratom has been used as a herbal remedy for a number of diseases in Thailand and neighboring countries for hundreds of years. It has a dose-dependent stimulating and opiate-like effect. In addition to energy boosting and some mild pain relief, there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that it may be helpful in managing withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate addiction.
Since 2000, there has been a significant increase in the rates of kratom use in North America and Europe, both as a recreation drug and for the self-management of pain and opiate withdrawal (a practice recommended by most medical professionals).
Side effects and safety concerns
Although people who take kratom believe in its value, researchers who have studied kratom believe that its side effects and safety problems are more than offsetting any potential benefits. Poison Control Centers in the United States received about 1,800 reports involving the use of kratom from 2011 to 2017, including death reports. Approximately half of these exposures resulted in serious negative outcomes, such as seizures and high blood pressure. Five of the seven infants reported to have been exposed to kratom went through withdrawal.
Kratom takes effect after five to ten minutes, and its effects last for two to five hours. The effects of the kratom grow stronger as the quantity taken increases. Cratoma appears to be more potent than morphine in animals. Exposure to kratom has been reported in a baby who has been breastfed by a mother taking kratom.
Many of the problems with pain medications occur when these drugs are used at high doses or over a long period of time. It is not known exactly what level of kratom is toxic to humans, but as with pain medications and recreation drugs, it is possible to overdose kratoms.
Short-Term Effects of Kratom
Due to the unique mixture of cratoma chemicals, the short-term effects of the drug are complex and variable. The balance between stimulating-like and opiate-like effects depends on the dose taken, and different users have reported significantly different drug experiences even when taking the same dose.
Long-Term Effects of Kratom
Based on research conducted on chronic, high-dose kratom users in Thailand, there are several unusual long-term effects of this drug, such as:
- Hyperpigmentation or darkening of the face skin.
- Anorexia, weight loss.
- Psychosis. Psychosis.
However, the evidence available does not suggest that long-term use of kratom damages organs or other parts of the body.
Kratom’s Effects at Low Doses
Stimulant-like effects predominate at a low dose (1-5 g) of kratom. They are felt within 10 minutes and last for 60 to 90 minutes. While user reports indicate that most people find these effects pleasant, some users experience an uncomfortable sense of anxiety and agitation. The primary stimulating-like effects of kratom are similar to amphetamine, although less intense, and include:
- Increase in energy and alertness.
- Slower appetite.
- Increase in sociability.
- Heavy libido.
Kratom’s Effects at Moderate to High Doses
Moderate to high doses (5-15 g) of kratom have primarily opioid-like effects lasting several hours.
The euphoric “high” induced by the drug is reported to be less intense than other opioid drugs, and some users describe the experience as unpleasant or dysphoric. Other opioid-like effects include:
- Analgesia (breath reduction).
- The sleepiness.
- Calm, dreamlike state of mind.
- The suppression of cough.
- Reduction of symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
Kratom doses greater than 15 g have effects similar to high doses of opioids, including extreme sedation and loss of consciousness in some cases.
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