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Kratom or Mitragyna Speciosa comes from the Rubiaceae family. Native to Southeast Asia, the leaves of the large tree is used as a cure for different ailments in the region. However, the leaves also produce opiate-like effects. On the other hand, few types of research show any conclusive scientific data to support this theory.

Referred as ‘ketum’ or ‘kakuam’, Kratom is widely used in some parts of the world. Although the drug is relatively new in both the US and European markets, most Southeast Asian countries used the leaves as a painkiller and anti-diarrheal drug. In the United States, Kratom is a legal drug used particularly to help ease withdrawal symptoms in certain drugs such as heroin. However, the drug contains addictive properties similar to opiates.

Kratom and its Opiates-like Effects

Once consumed, kratom will take effect within after 5 to 10 minutes and can last 2 to 5 hours. People commonly consumed the drug as a tea. But chewing or ingesting the drug is also a popular way to take it.

At a low dose of 10 grams, the drug can produce:

  •    feelings of euphoria or “high”
  •    energy
  •    extreme talkativeness

However, in higher doses of 20 to 50 grams it can produce:

  •    feelings of sedation
  •    intense high
  •    decreased sensation of pain
  •    numbness

Despite the negative heath consequences it gives, the US Food and Drug Administration categorized kratom as a dietary supplement. Some of the side effects it gives include:

  •    Itching
  •    Sweating
  •    Nausea
  •    Constipation
  •    Dry mouth
  •    Increased urination
  •    Loss of appetite

Prolonged use of the drug can generate health hazards such as:

  •    Hallucinations
  •    Anorexia
  •    Skin darkening
  •    Weight loss
  •    Constipation
  •    Vomiting
  •    Respiratory depression

Furthermore, there are some reports of hepatitis and other liver-related diseases associated with kratom use. In rare cases, it can cause psychotic syndromes in some users. Even though the drug can provide these life-threatening illnesses, the US still considers it as a legal drug. There are only a handful of research studies that supports the effects of the drug to consider banning it.

On the bright side, some states spearheaded banning the drug like Indiana, Vermont, and Tennessee. Also, several states put forth making plans to ban the drug in their regions.

How It is used

Users can buy the drug in its raw form, (as a leaf or leaves) in Southeast Asia but in the US, it takes the form as a capsule. If observed closely, powdered leaves or chopped leaves filled the capsule. Typically users abuse kratom as:

  •    tea
  •    chewing the drug
  •    ingesting the drug
  •    smoking

The effects of the drug can affect users rapidly and last about five to seven hours. Higher doses of the drug can yield longer ‘high’.

Its History in the US

For hundreds of years, farmers chewed the kratom leaves to get increased energy while working at the farms. Because of the harmful effects of the drug, Thailand banned the use of kratom in 1979. In 2003, Malaysia followed suit in banning the deadly drug.

Unfortunately, because the drug produces alertness and boosts energy, it eventually smuggled into the Western countries. Presently, the use of kratom continues to flourish in some secluded jungles of Thailand and often smuggled into the US.

As an addictive drug

In some of the few studies conducted around kratom, some studied shows greater rates of dependence among users. Of the studies found out that after six months of continuous use, users may experience severe opiate withdrawal symptoms. While 45% of users experience mild withdrawal symptoms, the other 80% tried to stop using the drug but unsuccessful in doing so. Another study also showed similar conclusion where it stated that 45% showed moderate dependence on the drug.

How Users Obtain the Drug

In the US, kratom is promoted as a legal, undetectable, safe drug that is medically used to ease some withdrawal symptoms of stronger drugs. It is not yet illegal in the US but the breakdown products of kratom can be detected with some drug tests.  

Most users obtain the drug through online. Several smoke shops or ‘head shops’, gas stations and convenience store sell this drug.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime labeled in the drug in 2013 as a newly-defined class of drug called New Psychoactive Substances. Kratom belongs to the same classification as with khat, salvia and synthetic ketamine and mephedrone. Despite their deadly effects, many of the said drugs are not yet illegal to use and sell in the US and Europe.

Kratom as an addictive drug

The drug takes hold of the user’s mental state and even on their lives. The most significant danger posed by the long-term use of the drug is dependence and addiction. Some chemicals found in kratom activate opiate signaling in the brain and, in doing so, help mitigate the withdrawal symptoms. These features strongly suggest that kratom itself can be addictive, and evidence from users supports this view.

Long-term users, whether in Southeast Asia or the West, reported building a tolerance to kratom. They progressively need to take more of the drug to get the same effects. Some long-term users eventually develop compulsive drug taking behavior. They are unable to stop their intake despite harmful effects from the drug or negative life consequences due to their drug use.

Users withdrawing from kratom may prefer to detox at a professional detoxification facility where trained medical staff can monitor them and provide medical support. Some symptoms of withdrawal can present a medical risk to recovering users. Detox can increase the user’s chance of complete recovery and ease any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

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