Kratom Use: A Breakdown of its Effects & Addictive Potential
Kratom, the herbal supplement derived from the leaves of the Mitragyna Speciosa tree native to Southeast Asia, has been a subject of controversy and debate in recent years. While it is often promoted as a natural remedy for chronic pain, anxiety, and even opioid addiction, concerns have arisen regarding its potential to both be abused and negatively impact users.
Important to Note:
There are no certainties regarding the use, abuse, and addictive nature of kratom, as the effects and the drug itself is being extensively tested by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
In fact, according to the NIDA’s most recent kratom information, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) — a reference text published by the American Psychiatric Association that health professionals use to diagnose substance use disorders and other psychiatric disorders — does not include a specific diagnosis related to kratom use.”
Understanding Kratom Use
Kratom has a long history of traditional use in countries like Thailand and Malaysia, where it has been consumed for its stimulant and analgesic properties. In the United States, it has gained popularity as an over-the-counter herbal supplement, touted for its potential pain relief and mood-enhancing effects. The active compounds in kratom products, known as alkaloids, are primarily responsible for its effects. Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are the most well-known of these alkaloids and are believed to interact with opioid receptors in the brain, producing opioid-like effects without the same level of respiratory depression.
Is Kratom Addictive?
Because the active compounds listed above (Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine) partially activate the same brain receptors as drugs that are proven to be addictive, there are concerns around the addictive nature of kratom. Though it depends on the dosages taken, the frequency, the method by which it’s administered, and more.
While more research is needed, there are studies (Journal of Psychoactive Drugs) that have determined users commonly experience dose-dependent withdrawal symptoms after giving up kratom use.
Kratom withdrawal symptoms are often mild in severity, including:
- Mood swings
- Muscle pain
- Joint stiffness
- Runny nose
The Effects of Kratom Use
Users of kratom have reported varying positive effects, ranging from stimulation (increased energy and alertness) to sedation (relaxation and pain relief). Further studies are being conducted to determine whether those effects are related to the dosage amount, ingestion method, or other factors.
When it comes to overuse and abuse of kratom, however, one side effect is drawing a lot of attention — its impact on the liver.
Kratom and Liver Health
While kratom's potential benefits have drawn attention, concerns about its impact on the liver have also emerged. Reports of drug-induced liver injury (DILI) associated with kratom use have raised red flags, prompting investigations by the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Cases of kratom-induced liver injury have been documented in the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network, further highlighting this issue.
In fact, according to a 2023 Kratom case study in the Journal of Hepatology, “Kratom supplementation has been implicated in acute liver injury, largely characterized by cholestatic injury, acute liver failure, organ dysfunction, toxicity, coma, seizures, and even death.”
The Degree of Liver Damage
Kratom-induced liver injury can manifest as various forms of hepatotoxicity, including cholestatic and mixed patterns. Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
Elevated liver enzymes: Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and alkaline phosphatase
In severe cases, acute liver failure can occur, necessitating urgent medical attention. The degree of harm to the liver from kratom use appears to vary among individuals. Some cases of liver injury have been associated with high doses of kratom, while others have occurred at lower doses. However, it's essential to note that individual factors, such as genetics, preexisting liver disease, and concurrent use of other substances like acetaminophen, may contribute to the risk of liver damage.
Reversibility and Management of Kratom-Induced Liver Injuries
The reversibility of kratom-induced liver injury remains a topic of research and debate. In some cases, discontinuing kratom use may lead to the resolution of liver abnormalities, while in others, the damage may be irreversible. The key to managing kratom-induced liver injury lies in early detection, cessation of kratom use, and close monitoring of liver function.
Spreading Awareness About the Effects of Kratom
The side effects of kratom on the liver are a complex and evolving area of study. While kratom's potential benefits for chronic pain and opioid-like effects are of interest to many, the potential for addiction and negative side effects cannot be ignored. As we await more comprehensive research, individuals considering the use of kratom should exercise caution, especially if they have preexisting liver conditions or are taking prescription medications.
It’s important to note that the FDA has not approved kratom for medical use, and the DRA has labeled it as a drug of concern. So, anyone considering the use of kratom should consult with a healthcare professional.
To learn more about the effects of Kratom and substance use, in general, contact Caron Treatment Centers today.