Kratom is a drug derived from the leaves of the Kratom tree found in Southeast Asia. The United Nations classifies this drug, and other plant-based substances such as khat and salvia divinorum, as a “New Psychoactive Substance.” Street names for Kratom include: Thang, Kakuam, Thom, Ketum and Biak.
There is no known medical use for Kratom in the United States. However, it currently does not have an assigned “schedule” under the Controlled Substances Act, which could convey its potential for abuse. At this time, the substance is not illegal nationwide because of the insignificant amount of harsh effects that have been reported, according to Fox News. It is, however, banned in the states of Indiana and Tennessee. The United States Food & Drug Administration currently has Kratom listed as a “drug of concern.”
The substance has been found to cause addiction in those who are daily users. Periodic use, on the other hand, is not associated with the cause of addiction or the withdrawal symptoms that may arise from its use.
In Southeast Asia, Kratom is used as an anti-diarrheal medication, painkiller, and as a recreational drug for getting high. Kratom is sold as a leaf, but can also be purchased as powder-filled capsules or chopped-up leaves, which can be brewed as a tea or rolled into smoking papers. While the drug is illegal in Thailand, government officials have considered repealing its illegality due to its potential use for helping overcome opioid addictions. Kratom is not an opiate, but it does bind to the receptor sites that are associated with providing pain relief and feelings of sedation.
The United States has been tracking Kratom since 2012, according to Narcotics Anonymous. The drug is sold in convenience stores, gas stations, smoke shops (also referred to as head shops), and it can also be ordered over the Internet. Its use has spread from Southeast Asia to Europe, and now to the United States. In the United Kingdom, the drug is often sold as “herbal speedball.”
Although the United States does not have as large of a following for Kratom as Southeast Asia, the number of Kratom related calls made to poison control centers has been growing. The drug has been associated with causing trips to the emergency room, and more than 13,000 people were arrested in Thailand in 2011 for using the drug, according to Narcotics Anonymous.
The leaves of the Kratom plant contain 25 alkaloids, the most potent of which is mitragynine. According to a Google Trends report, Kratom is searched more frequently than drugs such as bath salts, synthetic marijuana or salvia.
The Kratom tree is in the same family as the coffee tree, and those who have engaged the use of the drug, compare its effects to drinking several cups of coffee.
When used in lower dosages, the drug is considered a stimulant. It will have effects such as making a person more alert, energetic, sociable and talkative. In higher dosages, the drug causes euphoria and lethargy.
However, there are many adverse effects associated with the use of Kratom. These include:
Kratom is known to be highly addictive. Studies done on long-term Kratom users found that the drug has lasting effects that include anorexia, skin darkening, dry mouth, frequent urination and constipation.
Treatment for Kratom addiction includes a detoxification process that helps individuals overcome the withdrawal symptoms associated with the drug. These withdrawal symptoms are said to be similar to those of heroin or prescription painkilling medications. Examples of these symptoms include:
Treatments for Kratom addiction include therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapies, which help educate the individual on ways to resist urges and cravings associated with using the drug. Group therapy and attending meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous, can also help a person remain sober.
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