Using kratom to treat opioid addiction or pain can have dangerous and even fatal side effects, according to a new university study.

A new study out of Binghamton University measures the number of adverse effects reported due to taking the supplement kratom. They found a total of 2,312 exposures to kratom, 935 in which kratom was the exclusive substance used. Side effects of using kratom included:

  • Drowsiness
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Withdrawal
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Coma
  • Hallucinations

In rare cases (0.6%), cardiac arrest occurred. In the New York county, where these numbers were gathered, four deaths associated with kratom were reported.

The kratom herbal supplement is derived from a plant that grows in Southeast Asia. Its leaves can be used to generate psychotropic effects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains kratom is consumed as a capsule or extract and affects the brain in ways similar to opioids. When herbal kratom powder is purchased online, it is not subject to regulation. Kratom is currently legal in the United States.

Herbal kratom powder and other forms of the drug are created using compounds of the leaves. Researchers continue to seek better answers to people’s questions of whether kratom is safe. Kratom is most frequently used to make people feel sedate, increase pleasure and reduce pain. Newer studies indicate multiple issues with people using kratom for these purposes.

Dangers of Self-Medicating with Kratom

Unfortunately, some people believe kratom is a safe way to overcome opioid dependence. The effectiveness of kratom for opioid withdrawal has not been proven but has gained some traction as a drug replacement therapy outside of official medical or rehabilitation services. Using kratom for opioid dependence is now subject to significant caution from the medical community for many reasons.

  • Overdose or other adverse reactions: Kratom effects, as reported in the study, can be severe and impact the body’s brain, digestion, heart, and mental health. Because kratom stimulates similar parts of the brain as opioids, it is susceptible to abuse and addiction. It is possible to overdose on kratom. When used to treat pain or addiction, there is a risk of overdose and dangerous drug interactions. Major dangers can even include seizures, coma or cardiac arrest.
  • Addiction: Kratom addiction is a serious condition that can be supported by the ease of access to this legal drug. As with any drug, kratom addiction withdrawal can be painful and require treatment in a medical facility or rehabilitation center.
  • Lack of FDA Approval: Currently, kratom is not an FDA-approved substance and consumer warnings have been issued on its use.

Dangerous Interactions

The following are some of the potential interactions that can occur with kratom and other substances:

  • Kratom and suboxone, a drug used to treat withdrawal symptoms without making someone high, have the same effect on the body. Both of these drugs act as opioids and may cancel each other out if used to treat addiction and could adversely affect the respiratory system.
  • Kratom and alcohol may be combined recreationally or during attempts to stop using opioids. Alcohol has depressive effects, and kratom has sedative effects. This can severely limit someone’s function and present serious health risks.
  • Kratom and Adderall should not be used together because they have opposite effects on the body. Combining the two, kratom as a sedative and Adderall as a stimulant, can lead to sickness, including insomnia.

Self-managing withdrawal from opioids or other drugs is dangerous. It is unsafe to use unapproved drugs to replace other drugs. It is also not recommended to undergo detox from drugs without medical supervision.

Expanding Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted addiction treatment is available in accredited rehabilitation facilities and can be very helpful during detox and throughout recovery. The illegal use of kratom for withdrawal treatment may indicate that there’s a need for greater access to safe and effective means of this type of addiction treatment.

There are many treatment options available that are affordable, accessible and attainable. These include drug rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, outpatient treatment, counseling, and support groups.

If you or someone you know is in need of treatment for drug addiction, The Recovery Village has numerous resources to help you find successful treatment for recovery. Our rehab facilities serve communities from Florida to Washington, specializing in a range of addiction recovery services.

Joy Youell
By – Joy Youell
Joy Youell is a writer and content developer with a background in educational research. Using sound pedagogical approaches and expert-backed methods, Joy has designed and delivered adult learning content, professional development, and company training materials for organizations. Read more
Ashley Sutphin
Editor – Ashley Sutphin
Ashley Sutphin Watkins received her degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Psychology and Journalism. Read more
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.