One of the most common questions many people have about kratom is whether or not it’s safe. While there is limited research, in general, the answer to that question depends on a few factors. Some of the potential negative and positive effects of kratom at varying doses will be discussed below, including the potential for a fatal overdose.
In the country of kratom’s origin, Thailand, it is a banned substance. It’s also regulated in Malaysia, some European Union countries, and Australia. Above all else, it’s important for people to realize that no matter the short or long-term effects, kratom is considered addictive, and people can develop a physical dependence on this substance. That in and of itself would indicate that it’s not safe.
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Low Doses of Kratom
When someone takes low doses of kratom, it’s been shown to act as a stimulant, with some effects similar to amphetamine. Stimulant-related side effects of taking a low dose of kratom can include increased energy and alertness, increased sex drive, decreased appetite, and more sociability. Negative possible side effects of low doses of kratom can include:
- Coordination problems
- Sleep problems
High Doses of Kratom
With higher doses of kratom, the effects of the drug are more similar to opioids, which is why some people turn to this herb to replace other opioids they may be addicted to. The side effects are similar to drugs like morphine but are generally less intense.
Effects of high doses of kratom can include sedation, pain reduction, euphoria and cough suppression. There can also be negative effects of high doses, however, including constipation, nausea, and itching. In rare cases, a kratom overdose can lead to death from breathing suppression.
Any Dose of Kratom
Many users of kratom have also reported something dubbed “The Kratom Hangover” the day after taking it. Hangover symptoms can include irritability, anxiety, nausea, and headaches.
The drug can also lead to problems with coordination and sleepiness, so it’s dangerous to drive or operate machinery while using it. For the same reason, pregnant women are also advised never to use kratom. What’s worse, if a person takes a high dose of kratom and falls asleep, they may vomit and choke while asleep.
Lack of Regulation
Any time a substance, including herbal supplements, isn’t regulated by the FDA, there are potential safety hazards. This is because there is no standardization when a substance isn’t regulated. That means that companies, particularly if they’re operating online, can market the product however they want. There are no official drug warning labels for kratom, and people may take it without knowing what other substances it contains. A buyer never knows what level of potency a kratom product could have or whether it’s pure.
The negative effects can be even more severe when kratom is combined with other drugs and prescription medicines. Some of the kratom chemicals have been shown to interact with how the liver metabolizes other drugs, which can lead to dangerous interactions. The possible consequences of many drug interactions range from seizures to liver damage.
Another risk is presented when people buy commercial versions of the herb that have been combined with other drugs or substances. One such example is called Krypton, which is marketed to the public as a particularly potent version of kratom. It actually contains a mix of kratom and another chemical found in tramadol patients that activates the brain’s opioid receptors. Krypton and kratom both have the potential for respiratory failure leading to death.
Because there is little research currently available on how kratom interacts with other substances, the breadth and severity of effects are yet unknown. This unpredictability adds to the dangers of using kratom with something else because you’ll have no idea what it will do to you.
Can you overdose on kratom? This is a frequent question people have, and the short answer is yes. Recent studies have found evidence of fatal kratom-only overdoses involving severe and negative side effects that can occur when someone takes too much. The risk of overdose increases when kratom is taken with another substance, especially opioids.
Some of the symptoms that you’ve taken too much kratom can include:
- Shallow or very heavy breathing
- Impaired motor skills
- Slurred speech
Long-Term Effects of Kratom
U.S. research about the effects of kratom has been relatively limited. There is some anecdotal evidence as to the possible long-term effects of its use among Western audiences, who use the drug differently than in the Southeast. Even at low doses, potential unsafe effects of regular kratom use include anorexia, sleep problems, constipation, tremor, hyperpigmentation, and withdrawal symptoms, which are similar to opioid withdrawal.
For someone who has been a long-term and heavy user of kratom, it can lead to liver problems. Signs of liver damage include dark-colored urine and yellow skin and eyes. Kratom tends to make it more difficult for the liver and kidneys to process toxins and filter them out, contributing to the potential for this type of organ damage.
Cinosi, Eduardo; et al. “Following “the Roots” of Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa): The Evolution of an Enhancer from a Traditional Use to Increase Work and Productivity in Southeast Asia to a Recreational Psychoactive Drug in Western Countries.” BioMed Research International, 2015. Accessed June 28, 2020.
Veltri, Charles; Grundmann, Oliver. “Current perspectives on the impact of Kratom use.” Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 2019. Accessed June 28, 2020.
O’Malley Olsen, Emily; et al. “Notes from the Field: Unintentional Drug Overdose Deaths with Kratom Detected — 27 States, July 2016–December 2017.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 12, 2019. Accessed June 28, 2020.
Stokes Osborne, Caroline; et al. “Drug-Induced Liver Injury Caused by Kratom Use as an Alternative Pain Treatment Amid an Ongoing Opioid Epidemic.” Journal of Investigative Medicine High Impact Case Reports, January 28, 2019. Accessed June 28, 2020.
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