Is kratom the answer to opioid addiction? Although kratom does contain partial-agonist opioids capable of binding to the brain’s mu opioid receptor, it’s unlikely to be the answer to opioid addiction for three main reasons:
- Opioid addiction is far too complex to have one simple solution
- Kratom’s opioids don’t deliver the effects most desired by opiophiles
- Kratom, being a naturally-occurring substance, cannot be patented
Addiction to opioids involves genetic, environmental, and psychogenic factors that cannot be addressed by a drug. The opioids in kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine, are both partial opioid agonists. This means they can only activate the mu-opioid receptor to a certain degree, typically falling far short of any kind of euphoric effect. The effects of kratom are also dose-related. To get the sedation and euphoria more typical of the opioid effect, you need to take quite a large amount of it. Large amounts of kratom have been associated with nausea, dizziness, and sporadic reports of liver damage.
Whatever compounds are in kratom that might be able to help opioid addicts will likely remain unknown? Big pharma companies aren’t interested in natural substances they can’t patent and sell as a proprietary products. The United States government hates kratom and has repeatedly tried to ban it. In fact, kratom is illegal in a number of states.
The Effect of Kratom
What is known about kratom is mostly anecdotal, but widespread reports of people using the plant to get through withdrawal from other opioids, such as heroin and oxycodone, do exist. Since kratom’s opioids are partial agonists, they may work similarly to buprenorphine, the narcotic component of Suboxone and another partial mu agonists. In those states where kratom is legal, some people do use it as a substitute for opioids, either because they want to or because their opioid of choice isn’t available. However, anyone who has ever taken a full-agonist opioid, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, and kratom can tell you without a doubt that kratom isn’t anything like oxycodone. It may be able to mitigate some of the withdrawal symptoms and may even produce limited feelings of well-being in some users, but oxycodone or heroin it’s not. It’s just not.
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a tree in the coffee family native to the southeastern Asian area. It’s been used for centuries to relieve pain and increase energy levels. The kratom sold in the United States is obtained from the leaves of the trees, which can grow as large as a man’s hand. The leaves are dried and crushed into a powder that’s loaded into clear gel caps. Kratom stinks and tastes terrible, so gel caps are the easiest way to get it down. However, it’s also sold in powder form, which is mixed with water, brewed into a tea or stirred into something else like yogurt. The taste is truly awful, but people do ingest the powder in various ways. Kratom takes quite a while to produce an effect, often well over an hour or longer. This is because it takes time for the body to extract the plant’s opioids from the powdered raw leaf. It works best and fastest on an empty stomach. This is because the body isn’t already busy digesting something else.
Each kratom leaf has colored veins that are typically white, red or green. These colored veins produce the different strains of kratom. White is supposed to be more energizing, while red is more sedating and opioid-like. Green is somewhere in between. Gold kratom is a cured form of the red vein, supposedly more powerful than the regular red veins.
Since kratom’s opioid alkaloids can indeed activate the brain’s opioid receptors, pain relief is possible. In fact, many people take kratom as a safer alternative to prescription opioids. Others use small amounts, less than 4 grams, as a natural energy-booster similar to a couple cups of coffee. Of course, coffee cannot activate the opioid receptors, so kratom’s effects are different from coffee’s or caffeine’s.
Big pharma isn’t interested in kratom. In fact, they probably see it as a competitor to their prescription opioid products and a possible threat to those profits. Without big pharma, there will be no controlled clinical trials to evaluate kratom’s potential as either a safer analgesic or an adjunct treatment for opioid addiction.
For More Information
Before using kratom, give us a call for more information. We’re a group of professional drug counselors available to help you anytime at 833-497-3812. We look forward to your call.