Sold in online stores, head shops and smoke shops across the United States, kratom pills have been rising in popularity as a legal “natural high,” sexual stimulant, and herbal remedy. As the DEA has yet to define the legal status of kratom pills, people may be wondering whether or not this herbal drug is safe to use. Because not much is definitively known about the possible dangers of prolonged kratom pill use, the drug should be approached with caution.
Kratom trees are found all over Southeast Asia. In local traditions, kratom tree leaves are known to produce a variety of stimulant effects. The leaves are either chewed up or brewed into a tea. When taken in this low-dose form, kratom is said to cause positive changes in mood, an increase in sexual arousal, and a general relief from boredom. Taken in this more traditional manner, kratom is similar to caffeine or other stimulants.
Once kratom started to be synthesized and made into powder and pill forms, its high dose effects became more apparent. While it has mild effects at low doses, more like a stimulant, higher doses lead to effects that are similar to those one would get from opioids or sedatives. As a result, many people struggling with opioid addiction have started to take kratom pills as an alternative to opioids. Some have even started to use kratom pills to help deal with the withdrawal symptoms caused by other opioid drugs.
Kratom pills can bring about side effects similar to those brought about by opioids. Lethargy, abdominal pain, fever, changes in appetite, digestive problems and cognitive difficulty are all possible side effects. Kratom pills could lead to tolerance, physical dependence and addiction when they are taken regularly and in high doses. When taken with other drugs, kratom could lead to even more side effects and dangerous drug interactions. Because there has not been enough research, these effects and potential risks are still not yet fully understood.
Kratom originated in Southeast Asia, and it is currently illegal in several Southeast Asian countries. It’s arrival to North America and Europe is a relatively recent event, and legislation takes a while to keep up with and classify new drugs as they enter the market. In 2016, the DEA considering classifying kratom as a Schedule I controlled substance, declaring that it has a strong risk of misuse, addiction and dependence, and that it has no current application in medical or clinical use. The proposal was met with opposition and the scheduling never went through.
However, many states have either scheduled the drug at the local level or banned the sale of kratom pills. The scientific and medical community has yet to reach any sort of consensus on the safety of the drug or its place in medicinal use. Furthermore, the lack of any kind of regulation and oversight into its manufacture and packaging makes it unsafe for consumers, if only for the fact that you never really know what is in a particular kratom pill. Until more research is conducted, kratom pills should be avoided.
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