What Is Kratom?

What is kratom exactly? We have been hearing this question more and more over the years as kratom has grown in popularity. Let's dive into the specific and details about what kratom is.

So what is kratom, really? Kratom, the common word for a tree native to Southeast Asia and the products produced from its leaves, is not a prescription drug. Instead, its derived products are used in herbal supplements. It’s been available in the United States, in its many different strains, since the late 1990s. However, the use of kratom drastically increased between 2011 and 2017. In 2020, an estimated 15 million people in the United States use kratom in some form.

A complex substance, with many different ways to ingest and varying effects, is often now just seen as a recreational psychoactive drug in the United States. However, it’s still severely under-researched and has the potential for harm, especially when mixed with other drugs.

What Is Kratom Exactly?

Scientifically, kratom is the Mitragyna Speciosa, a tree native to Southeast Asia. Its leaves derive different products that are marketed as herbal supplements.

While still being studied, research has shown that kratom leaves contain several chemical compounds, referred to as bioactive alkaloids, which affect the body. Currently, the most studied compounds in kratom are 7-hydroxy mitragynine and mitragynine.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that while kratom has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe for medical use, its product is still legal in the U.S. It is commonly sold as supplements or incense and may even have a label stating “not for human consumption”. This means that people who use kratom usually do so by either swallowing the plant matter in powder or capsule form, mixing the powder with food or drinks, brewing the leaves, or taking liquid kratom extract.

What Is Kratom | Kratom Plant (Mitragyna Speciosa)

How Does Kratom Make You Feel?

The lasting effects of kratom are still widely unknown and depend on the different strains and dosage amounts ingested. However, at the most basic level, they conclude that at a lower dose, it produces stimulant effects, and at a higher dose, opioid effects.

Stimulant-like effects can include increased energy and less appetite, similar to a stimulant. While still being researched, small amounts of kratom seem to produce side effects such as:

  •  Elevated mood
  •  Increased concentration
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased energy
  • Diaphoresis (excessive sweating)
  • Tremors
  • Increased heart rate

When taken at a higher dosage, kratom seems to take over the initial stimulant effects and begins to present similar to traditional opioids. These side effects may include:

  • Reduced pain or discomfort
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Sense of calm
  • Drowsiness
  • Intense muscle relaxation
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Skin discoloration
  • Depressed breathing

Again, effects can vary widely. Factors that affect how an individual may react to kratom include the amount ingested, the potency of the product, the way it was ingested, the potential for other drugs in their system, the individual’s medical condition, and more.

Call Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with kratom addiction, then call Emerge Healing Center today. We can help you find which kratom addiction treatment program in Atlanta is appropriate for your situation.

Kratom Strains and What They Mean

Another important thing to know about kratom is that it comes in several different types, referred to as strains. Similar to other drugs, such as marijuana, different strains have varying effects on the user. Again, these strains have had virtually no official research and are based on anecdotal reports.

Different strains of kratom include:

  • Maeng da: This strain originated in Thailand and can be red, green, or white in color. It refers to a strong and long-lasting kratom that supposedly acts as a stimulant while also reducing pain.
  • Indo: From Indonesia, this form of kratom is also red, green, or white. It is less stimulating than other strains and is known to help with anxiety.
  • Bali/red vein: Also from Indonesia, this strain is reddish and is said to be the most similar to an opioid.
  • Green Malay: Native to Malaysia, this dark green strain acts true to kratom, producing energy and focus with low doses and more of a sedative effect at higher doses.
  • Thai: From Thailand, this strain is similar to Maeng da, but with each color producing a specific effect. Green and white are stimulants while red provides pain relief.
  •  Borneo: Coming from Borneo, this red, green, and white strain is viewed as more of a sedative and is used for anxiety and stress.
  •  Malaysian: These strains supposedly provide a balance between the two effects found in other strains.

Research on Kratom

As noted several times, while research on kratom is ongoing, its effects remain largely unknown. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found no approved uses for kratom, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse does support. It is conducting research on if kratom has any potential medicinal uses for managing withdrawal symptoms and cravings (specifically in regards to opioid use).

Currently, the effects of kratom on the body are still being understood and seem to be dose-specific, along with which strain is being used.

Can You Become Addicted to Kratom?

The short answer is yes, it is possible to get addicted to kratom. That being said, to be officially diagnosed with a substance use disorder, an individual must meet the criteria set in the DSM-5, the text health professionals use to diagnose substance abuse and psychiatric disorders. However, the book doesn’t include a specific diagnosis for kratom use as of today. NIDA is researching to see to what extent people who use kratom could experience substance use disorder symptoms.

However, because of the limited knowledge and effects similar to other addictive drugs, kratom should not be used lightly. When mixed with other known addictive drugs, it is especially dangerous.

Getting Help

If you or a loved one are struggling with abusing kratom or another drug, help is available. If you have questions or are ready to start your recovery journey, we’re here to help. Contact our skilled addiction and mental health professionals at Emerge Healing Center to learn more about our treatment and program options.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, addiction, or co-occurring disorders then we are here for you. Please give us a call today so you can begin the journey of a lifetime.

More Kratom Recovery Resources

If you’d like to learn more about kratom, then read some of our informative articles on the topic below. We dive into every aspect of kratom addiction recovery so that we can answer any questions you may have.