**Note: This article was originally published on July 8, 2020. It was last updated on May 15, 2023.
If you suffer from opioid addiction, you likely already know the dangers of that lifestyle. And if you’re seeking opioid addiction treatment, you might have heard of an herb known as kratom. Some users tout kratom as the solution to their opioid withdrawal problems. But it’s also condemned by others as a highly dangerous and addictive substance in its own right. Read on to discover what kratom is, its effects on the brain and body, and whether you should consider talking to your doctor about using kratom for opioid addiction treatment.
What is Kratom?
Kratom is the herbal extract of the Mitragyna speciosa evergreen tree that grows in Southeast Asia. Sometimes used in at-home treatments for opioid withdrawal, kratom has gained two very different reputations, depending on who you ask. While some people have found more success breaking their opioid addictions using kratom instead of traditional treatments,  the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have both warned about the potentially enormous risks of kratom and advise against its use.
What is Opioid Addiction?
Opioid addiction is a medical condition characterized by physiological or physical reliance on opioid medications. Opioid medications are synthetic medications derived from opiate substances, which come (primarily) from the poppy plant.
Broadly, opioid medications are pain-relieving drugs. They interact with specific opioid receptors in your cells. For example, morphine is an opioid made from the poppy plant. Synthetic opioids include fentanyl, present in drugs like Actiq and Duragesic.
The opioid medications go through your bloodstream and attach to opioid receptors in your brain cells. These reduce the amount of pain that you feel and can induce a state of euphoria.
Unfortunately, while opioid medications are helpful in many circumstances, they can also be addictive because of their effects. At high doses, opioid medications can become physiologically addictive; your brain can become used to the sensations created by opioids and require them to function normally and without pain.
Furthermore, opioid medications can be hazardous when taken in higher doses (a common danger among those who are addicted to opioid medications). Opioids can slow your breathing and heart rate to the extent that you may become seriously injured or at risk of death.
Why Do Some People Choose to Use Kratom for Opioid Addiction Treatment?
Opioid withdrawal can be very unpleasant unless a physician manages symptoms. They do this by often administering pain medications and other withdrawal treatments. For most people, the ideal answer would be to seek professional treatment for their opioid addictions. However, not everyone has the resources to seek professional treatment, and others prefer to go it alone without medical help.
Since kratom has traditionally been used in Asia for pain management, there is a growing interest in the United States in using kratom for opioid addiction treatment. Many people order kratom-containing pills, teas, or other concoctions online and use them to self-treat opioid addiction without seeing a doctor or going to rehab.
The potential for kratom to help with opioid withdrawals is high, according to research by Christopher R. McCurdy of the University of Florida. The herb works so well because the compounds mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine bind to the same receptors in the brain that opioids do. This can have a calming, pleasant, and pain-relieving effect, even during the acute stages of opioid withdrawal.
Though it might be tempting to turn to kratom if you struggle with addiction in your own life, be careful. Without further research and testing, kratom use is still a risky proposition.
What Are The Potential Downsides of Kratom Use?
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns is that many kratom products are entirely unregulated. Anyone can sell anything on the internet. Buyers who don’t have access to laboratories to test their purchases would essentially be ingesting what they hope is kratom based on the seller’s promises. And indeed, a 2016 study found that many “kratom” products actually contained far higher opioid levels than kratom leaves would have naturally. This, of course, means that at least some of the commercially available kratom products are likely tainted, if they are even made from kratom at all.
Even with verifiably untainted kratom, the potential for adverse side effects is steep.
Though kratom is known for its calming and pain-relieving properties, it can also cause any or all of the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Addiction and withdrawal symptoms
It’s worth noting that the FDA found 44 deaths in 2017 related to kratom use. A 2019 CDC report indicated over 90 deaths caused by kratom. While many people claim that kratom-related deaths only happen in combination with other substances, some of those substances are things that the average person wouldn’t think twice about taking. For example, some of the listed interactions include caffeine, alcohol, cough syrup, and diphenhydramine, the antihistamine in Benadryl, and other common allergy medications.
The potential for interactions could be even higher when kratom is combined with other withdrawal medications. In at least one case, kratom alongside modafinil was likely the cause of a seizure in a patient who had never experienced seizures before.
Is it Wise to Use Kratom for Opiate Withdrawal?
No. There are no kratom or kratom-derived products that the Food and Drug Administration has approved. In other words, the substance has not been adequately tested for short and long-term health effects and associated risks.
If you experience significant opiate withdrawal symptoms, it’s better to check into a licensed rehab facility and program. There, you can get supervised medical care throughout your withdrawal and long-term assistance to prevent relapse later.
You should not use kratom for opioid withdrawal. Opioids are synthetic variations of opiates. For example, opiates include heroin, morphine, and coding. Opioids are semisynthetic or synthetic opioids, such as certain medications.
In any case, kratom is not recommended for opioid withdrawal under any circumstances. The same risks to your health when using kratom for opiate withdrawal apply here. It’s a much better choice to visit a licensed, trustworthy addiction treatment facility to get the attention and help you need fast.
Is Kratom Legal?
At this time, kratom is not explicitly illegal at the federal level. However, it is banned in 15 countries, as well as six states:
Furthermore, another six states are considering implementing regulations to outlaw kratom later.
Where Can You Turn if You Consider Using Kratom for Opioid Addiction Treatment?
Clear Life Recovery understands that opioid withdrawal is not pleasant to deal with alone. Rather than resorting to risky and untested at-home solutions, we urge you to contact us via the online contact form or call us. Our trained staff can speak with you and help you choose the best recovery option for you and your lifestyle. Even if you feel tempted to turn to DIY opioid addiction treatment because you can’t afford rehab, call us today. Clear Life Recovery’s dedicated admissions counselors have helped many people with complex financial backgrounds get the treatment they need for lasting recovery.