Some tout kratom as a way to ease pain and opiate withdrawal, but as of right now, there is no scientific evidence to prove that kratom is safe or effective.

Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. Kratom’s uses include providing energy and helping with opioid withdrawal and chronic pain. Despite some people considering it a beneficial herbal remedy, there is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. Some people warn it could even be dangerous. The opinions on kratom vary significantly across the board, so it’s important to know the facts.

What Is Kratom Used For?

Kratom is part of the coffee family, and it has many active components. As such, it may behave like a stimulant at certain doses and like an opiate at other doses. In Asia, where kratom is a native plant, it’s been used for hundreds of years for everything from treating cough and chronic pain to boosting energy and libido. In the United States, most of kratom’s uses involve self-treatment of withdrawal from opiates and chronic pain. Often when people in the United States use kratom, they are hoping to find a prescription pain medication alternative.

Potential Dangers of Using Kratom for Opiate Withdrawal

Using kratom for opiate withdrawal, or using it at all, may have risks. First, kratom hasn’t been studied sufficiently in the United States to be described as safe or effective for any purpose. There isn’t any oversight or quality control in how kratom is produced or sold, which presents a risk for anyone using kratom to quit opiates. There is also the potential to overdose on kratom. Symptoms of an overdose can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Loss of appetite
  • Psychosis

Using kratom for heroin withdrawal or opiate withdrawal may also lead to death, although most of the currently reported deaths involving kratom also involved another substance such as alcohol or cocaine.

When going through opiate withdrawal, there can be certain health risks. If you’re trying to self-medicate with kratom and you’re not getting the appropriate medical care, not only do you have to consider these health risks but you may also be more likely to experience a setback. Kratom is also a potentially addictive substance, so if someone is using kratom to quit opiates, they may be replacing one addiction with another.

Alternative Treatments for Opiate Withdrawal

Rather than trying to self-medicate or use something that hasn’t been proven safe for opiate withdrawal, consider seeking professional treatment such as a detox program at The Recovery Village. Opiate withdrawal symptoms and severity can vary between individuals, and there’s not one specific treatment protocol that works for everyone. At a professional treatment center, your care is individualized to your needs for the best possible outcomes.

Dangers of Kratom When Used for Pain

Along with using kratom to cope with opiate withdrawal symptoms, some people use it to deal with pain so they don’t have to rely on prescription opioids. There are health risks of using kratom, including the potential of seizures, hallucinations and psychosis. Kratom may cause dependence since it acts on the brain and the body similarly to opioids. If someone is dependent on the substance because of daily kratom use or using kratom for pain, withdrawal symptomscan include:

  • Edginess
  • Nervousness
  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Itching
  • Constipation
  • Delusional thoughts
  • Lethargy

Currently Approved Uses or Benefits to Using Kratom

Right now, when it comes to kratom uses and benefits, there isn’t enough known to determine if it’s safe or beneficial to use kratom. The drug’s uses and benefits are based on anecdotal information. Before kratom can be classified as potentially safe or beneficial, there would need to be more research, as well as regulation, so people could get kratom products in standardized dosages and of a certain quality.

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By – Ashley Sutphin
Ashley Sutphin Watkins received her degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Psychology and Journalism. Read more

Grinspoon, Peter, MD. “Kratom: Fear-worthy foliage or beneficial botanical?” Harvard Health Publishing, August 12, 2019. Accessed September 12, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Is Kratom?” April 2019. Accessed September 12, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.