Kratom Withdrawals – What Do They Feel Like?

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Kratom, derived from the ‘Mitragyna Speciosa’ plant, has come to the attention of herbal healers in the west in recent years. Does Kratom have withdrawals though?

Although it is a legal substance, it is deemed unfit for human consumption. It is uncontrolled by the DEA, meaning that little is known scientifically about how the drug affects users in the long term.

This hasn’t stopped a plethora of online stores and some alternative treatment stores from selling Kratom, often in the form of powder or capsules, to aid chronic pain and opioid addiction.  

Does Kratom Have Withdrawals?

When ingested, Kratom acts like a stimulant, and in small doses is often used to boost energy, spark creativity and combat fatigue. When used in larger doses, it can cause euphoria, sedation and muscle relaxation. Because it interferes with the users opioid receptors, it can become an addictive substance to the body, leaving some users with withdrawal symptoms. 

Kratom originates from Southeast Asia. Countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have used Kratom for local medicinal purposes, as well as cultural traditions, for thousands of years. One study that was conducted in northern Malaysia found that out of 293 regular Kratom users, more than half of the users showed severe dependence problems (their usage time being more than six months long). 45% of the participants showed moderate symptoms of addiction. The study concluded that the stronger the Kratom intake, the worse the withdrawal symptoms were. 

Some of the withdrawal symptoms, alongside other studies, show that users experience:

  • Muscle aches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Emotional changes
  • Runny nose
  • Jerky movements
  • Decreased appetite

Another study which used mitragynine, the key compound found in Kratom, on mice found that ‘Severe somatic withdrawal signs developed after 12 hours, and increased level of anxiety became evident after 24 hours of withdrawal.’ [1]

Anxiety and depression are also side effects that can take place when the body is going through the withdrawal process. When the brain becomes dependent on a psychoactive substance, it affects the balance of hormones and chemicals, resulting in the body experiencing physical and psychological changes when the substance is removed.

According to The Nursing Center, ‘Repeated use of Kratom can cause hypertension, renal toxicity, impaired cognitive function and behavior, and liver injury’. They go on to mention that withdrawals, in extreme cases, can cause tremors, anorexia and psychosis. 

When Do Kratom Withdrawals Start?

Kratom withdrawals will be different for each user. Some may not experience any withdrawal symptoms at all. Factors such as how much the user consumes in general, as well the frequency, will play a part in how quickly and severely symptoms start. 

Opioid withdrawal starts around six-12 hours after the last dose has been taken, and this estimation applies to Kratom as well. Withdrawal symptoms will appear within 12 to 48 hours after the user has consumed. 

In the first 24 hours, users will start to experience some symptoms known as the acute withdrawal stage, whereby feelings such as anxiety, cravings, agitation and muscle aches might begin. From there onwards, other physical symptoms may occur such as sweating, runny nose and insomnia.  

How Long Do Kratom Withdrawals Last?

According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),[2] opioid withdrawal can sometimes last up to 10 days. The peak of the withdrawal, they state, is around day 3, but this is dependent on the individual users circumstances. Kratom withdrawal is likened to opioid withdrawal due to the common influences both substances have on the brain. 

A range of factors will influence the severity of a withdrawal such as:

  • Biology and genetics
  • History of addiction
  • Quantity consumed 
  • Frequency of consumption

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) found that withdrawal symptoms should only last for about one week. They stated that regular users would experience cravings and even hallucinations during their withdrawal stage.[3]

Some users have reported suffering from PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome). PAWS can cause the user to experience depression, insomnia and anxiety, which can come and go, sometimes lasting months before the person feels 100% themselves again. 

Receiving Help for Withdrawal Symptoms 

Due to the effect Kratom has on the receptors in our brains, suddenly stopping its use can cause serious rebound effects for the user. This is the body’s attempt at restoring the chemical levels back to ‘normal’. Whilst there haven’t been many studies into how to treat Kratom withdrawal, there are some suggested methods. 

One such method is called ‘tapering’. This is where the user will continue to take the substance and very gradually start to decrease the dosage amount. Doing it in small stages allows the brain’s chemistry to slowly get back to normal, without the shock of the sudden withdrawal. 

One Reddit user recounts their use of valium, which they had a doctor prescribe for them. They used it while they tapered their Kratom use, and then moved on to using suboxone. Suboxone is used to help opioid addicts and suppresses cravings as well as withdrawal symptoms.  [4]

Users who are heavy, regular users of Kratom will need addiction treatment to help them recover, and should consult with their doctor to work out the best recovery plan. Other options include being admitted into a treatment or detox center. Some users may prefer to self treat at home, however this can be difficult due to the nature of the withdrawals, and relapses can occur easily. 

While the vast majority of users turn to Kratom as pain relief, and even as a treatment for opioid withdrawal, long term use and abuse of the substance can lead to addiction and serious complications.

Kratom has emerged onto the herbal treatments market rapidly over the last couple of years. Still relatively new to the western world, its uses and risks have not been widely researched. Some studies have been conducted to find out what people primarily use Kratom for, but not enough data has been collected to give any definitive answers to how these leaves can affect long term users. 

References:

[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25262913

[2]https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/kratom

[3]http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/drug-profiles/kratom

[4]https://www.reddit.com/r/quittingkratom/comments/ft5obt/how_not_to_quit_kratom/

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