Kratom refers to the leaves of a tree that grows in the tropics of Southeast Asia.
This unique plant, related to the coffee plant, is used to treat pain and behaves similarly to morphine. Recently, it’s come to be used recreationally in the US and other Western nations. Because its presence is so new, there are not yet any federal restrictions on the use of kratom, though the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings on the intoxicating effects of the substance as well as possible dangerous side effects.
Despite acting like an opioid, kratom can have both stimulant and psychoactive effects. It’s typically ingested by chewing the leaves, brewing them in a tea, smoking them, or taking them in capsule form. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kratom use has been increasing steadily in recent years, as have calls to poison control centers about the substance. From 2010 to 2015, there were 660 calls about the substance, with 7 percent of those poisonings resulting in life-threatening conditions.
Like with most drugs, overdose on kratom is possible, especially when mixed with other intoxicants. However, the effects of a kratom overdose haven’t yet undergone much official study due to the fact that it’s so new in this part of the world. Most of the information available is based on case reports, but the findings in these reports suggest the possibility for severe and dangerous effects from taking too much of this mysterious drug.
Possible signs of a kratom overdose include:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
These symptoms can be dangerous, and that danger is compounded by the fact that there’s not yet much information on what dose is appropriate. It’s highly recommended to start out small, taking just a few grams at first to figure out how much your body can handle. What is known is that kratom produces stimulant effects at smaller doses, but as the dose is raised, it can produce strong sedative and euphoric effects. At even higher doses, it can produce hallucinations and delusions. Beyond that, overdose is likely.
- Addiction and Withdrawal
Another concern about kratom is not just that it’s addictive, but its withdrawal symptoms can be very intense in ways usually only seen with more synthetic drugs. Withdrawal happens when a person starts using a drug enough to develop a tolerance, forcing that individual to make more and more of the substance to experience the same kind of high. Once this happens, stopping intake of the drug will result in unpleasant symptoms. If a person has been a heavy user for a significant period of time, these symptoms can be nearly unbearable and, with some drugs, dangerous.
Kratom withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches and jerks
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Severe depression
Psychosis mixed with panic attacks, aggression, or severe depression can become very dangerous as the individual may lose touch with reality and cause injury to others or even attempt suicide.
Anyone addicted to kratom should consult addiction treatment specialists before attempting to quit, as there are many available programs that can make the withdrawal process much safer and easier to handle.