Updated on May 13th, 2021
If you do a quick Google search for kratom, you’ll find a large amount of conflicting information on the herbal drug. While some organizations and scientists claim that it is a great tool for treating chronic pain, other trustworthy sources warn users of its potential for extreme harm and even death.
Although this blend of information can be confusing, here are the basics on what kratom is, side effects of kratom use, kratom detox and withdrawal, and potential treatment options like drug detox and rehab.
Table of contents
- What Is Kratom?
- What Are the Side Effects of Kratom Abuse?
- Kratom Detox: What to Expect
- What Are Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms?
- Kratom Detox and Withdrawal Timelines
- Is It Effective to Use Kratom for Opioid Withdrawal?
- Is It Effective to Use Kratom for Alcohol Withdrawal?
- Is Kratom Safe?
- Quitting Kratom: Treatment for Kratom Addiction
What Is Kratom?
According to WebMD, kratom is a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa) in Southeast Asia. Typically, the leaves of the trees are crushed and brewed as atea or used to make tablets, capsules, or liquids. These leaves have a pain-relieving effect but will act as a stimulant when taken in low doses. Kratom can also act as a depressant when taken in high doses.1
Although this herbal drug contains mind-altering opioid compounds, it is not currently an illegal substance in the United States. In fact, you can easily purchase it on the internet, where it is frequently sold as a powder, gum, or extract.2 Energy drinks and supplements containing kratom can also be purchased at some convenience stores, gas stations, and herbal remedy stores.3
To use this drug, most people chew the leaves or brew them in tea. Some people may also smoke the leaves or eat them in food. Street names for kratom include:
- Herbal Speedball
What Are the Side Effects of Kratom Abuse?
Although kratom produces some pleasurable effects, the substance can also result in many harmful physical effects. Reported side effects of kratom use include:4,5
- Rapid weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Dry mouth
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), other serious side effects have been associated with kratom use, including:
- Liver damage
- Withdrawal symptoms
Kratom Detox: What to Expect
If you’re planning on quitting kratom, you may not know what to expect during kratom detox. Although kratom detox and withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person, there are several things you can expect.
First, it’s important to know that when a person uses kratom, their brain chemistry is altered, much like opiates affect certain receptors in the brain. Therefore, kratom withdrawal and detox can be similar to opioid withdrawal.
While everyone is different, there are some common withdrawal symptoms you can expect, like flu-like symptoms, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and insomnia.
Many kratom withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, including depression, anxiety, nausea, and insomnia. This can make quitting kratom very difficult without professional help. Depending on the severity of a person’s kratom addiction, a kratom medical detox program may be necessary for safe and comfortable withdrawal.
A kratom medical detox program that is provided in a specialized detox center can provide round-the-clock supervision and access to medical and clinical health providers. Typically, the kratom medical detox process reduces the overall severity of kratom withdrawal by using a mixture of medication and therapeutic interventions, like cognitive behavioral therapy or group therapy.
If you are also using other substances in addition to kratom, you will need to let your addiction treatment provider know. This information will help treatment professionals avoid harmful drug interactions or complications during detox.
Even if you think the physical symptoms of kratom detox are manageable at home or you are tempted to rely on other herbal drugs to self-medicate, kratom withdrawal anxiety or depression can often be very severe. Seeking professional treatment for kratom detox can provide essential clinical support and physical assistance throughout the withdrawal process to ensure your safety and comfort.
What Are Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms?
Kratom use does not come without cravings or withdrawal effects. In fact, one study of 150 kratom users found 70 percent of them experienced mild anxiety after quitting it and 30 percent experienced moderate anxiety. The study also found that 81 percent experienced mild depression and 19 percent experienced moderate depression.6
If a person regularly uses kratom and then abruptly stops, he or she will most likely experience withdrawal effects. The effects are typically felt between five and nine hours after the last use and the more kratom the person used, the more intense the physical withdrawal effects will be. Aside from the depression and anxiety noted above, some of the most common kratom withdrawal effects include:
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Watery eyes and nose
- Sleep disturbances/insomnia
- Hot flashes and chills
- Lack of motivation
Although the physical symptoms usually last about three days, the psychological symptoms (anxiety and depression) may linger for several weeks after quitting kratom. As researchers learn more about the withdrawal effects of kratom, they also learn more about how it affects the human body.
Kratom Detox and Withdrawal Timelines
There are no official kratom withdrawal timelines due to a lack of studies on it, but the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction estimates that kratom withdrawal generally lasts about a week.7
There is also some self-reported information online from individuals who have quit kratom, which is detailed below.
Kratom Withdrawal Timeline
- 24 to 48 hours after the last dose: Some individuals may begin to feel kratom withdrawal symptoms right away, but for most, it takes between 24 and 48 hours for symptoms to begin.
- 2 to 5 days after the last dose: A few days into kratom detox, most people experience flu-like symptoms that can last for 3 to 4 days. These kratom withdrawal symptoms often include runny nose, sneezing, body aches, chills, hot flashes, insomnia, sweating, nausea, and diarrhea.
- 5 to 6 days after the last dose: About a week after kratom detox begins, the physical withdrawal symptoms often subside, but insomnia and fatigue may persist. Mental symptoms like irritability, anxiety, depression, and depression can also get worse around this time.
- Up to 30 days after the last dose: Some people may also experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which may include bouts of anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, insomnia, or depression that may come in waves. Depending on the person, these psychological symptoms can last several days, weeks, or even months.
Generally, the duration and intensity of kratom withdrawal will vary depending on how often a person uses kratom and how much they use each time.
- Detox timeline for low-dose kratom users: If you use low doses of kratom regularly, you can expect kratom detox and withdrawal to last about one to two weeks.
- Detox timeline for high-dose kratom users: If you use high doses of kratom regularly, you can expect kratom detox and withdrawal to last about four to six weeks.
- Detox timeline for kratom users who also abuse other substances: If you use kratom with other addictive substances, kratom detox and withdrawal may last several weeks or even months. It’s very unpredictable and highly dependent on your drug abuse habits.
- Detox timeline for long-term, high-dose kratom users who quit cold turkey: If you’re accustomed to using high doses of kratom regularly and you suddenly stop using it, you could experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS can last for months or years depending on the person and their kratom-using habits.
It’s also important to remember that not everyone will experience kratom withdrawal in the same way or even at all. Kratom withdrawal is highly individualized and the intensity and duration will vary from person to person depending on their drug abuse habits, general health, and environmental factors.
Is It Effective to Use Kratom for Opioid Withdrawal?
Although it can cause dependence and withdrawal symptoms itself, some people use kratom for opioid withdrawal. Interestingly, kratom itself is promoted as a helpful aid in treating opioid dependence and many people claim it can reduce the side effects of opioid withdrawal during detox. However, research does not fully support this claim.8
Kratom may help reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms but it can also cause more problems. Instead of helping a person overcome the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, using kratom may actually lead to more uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, as using it regularly can cause physical dependence. It is also very possible to overdose on kratom, so people who use the drug to detox on their own at home without medical supervision may increase their risk of overdose.
Is It Effective to Use Kratom for Alcohol Withdrawal?
Much like kratom is a popular remedy for opioid withdrawal, there is also a growing number of people who use kratom for alcohol withdrawal. These claims are primarily anecdotal and much more research is needed to verify this claim.9
However, those who use kratom for alcohol withdrawal typically use the powdered form of kratom and mix it into tea or juice. They claim it eliminates alcohol cravings and helps them cut back on drinking or quit entirely. Again, much more research is needed to verify these claims and further explore the risks of using kratom for alcohol withdrawal.
Is Kratom Safe?
Kratom has become very popular but many medical and health experts argue that it is unsafe and ineffective. There are currently no FDA-approved uses of kratom and the agency has received concerning reports about its safety.
On the other hand, many kratom advocates argue that the drug provides relief from pain, depression, and anxiety. Even some scientists regard it as a possible treatment for chronic pain and a tool to combat the opioid crisis. However, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials are concerned.
The following findings are causes for concern.
- In September of 2016, the DEA wanted to ban kratom and classify it as a Schedule 1 drug. This decision was strongly challenged by the public, so the DEA is now waiting on a scientific and medical evaluation as well as a recommendation from the FDA before moving forward with any plans to make kratom illegal.10
- Meanwhile, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) classifies kratom as an addictive substance and reports that it can cause dependence in some users. When it is taken in high doses, the compounds in the leaves interact with opioid receptors in the brain, resulting in pleasurable effects. Even small doses can produce a stimulant effect, making kratom one drug with a high potential for abuse.
- In November of 2017, the FDA published a statement about the health risks and concerns associated with kratom use, in which the administration clearly states: “There is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder. Patients addicted to opioids are using kratom without dependable instructions for use and more importantly, without consultation with a licensed health care provider about the product’s dangers, potential side effects or interactions with other drugs.”
- In the statement, the FDA also cites the fact that calls to U.S. poison control centers regarding kratom have increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2015 and hundreds of calls are being made each year. Thirty-six reported deaths have been associated with kratom products and additional reports have been made about kratom being laced with other opioid drugs.11
- In June of 2019, the FDA issued warning letters to two marketers and distributors of kratom products for illegally selling unapproved and misbranded products that contained kratom. The FDA also cracked down on them for marketing their products with unproven claims on their ability to treat opioid addiction and withdrawal symptoms, pain, depression, anxiety, and cancer.12
Quitting Kratom: Treatment for Kratom Addiction
Those who are interested in quitting kratom may find that they have a difficult time getting sober on their own.
According to news articles, some individuals have reported becoming addicted to kratom. Just like any other drug abuse behaviors, kratom addiction should be taken very seriously and treatment should begin with medically assisted drug detox before continuing with a drug rehab program.
Drug detox is an essential part of recovery, as it can help a person achieve a stable state of sobriety while managing the uncomfortable symptoms of kratom withdrawal. Once the person is sober and has completed the withdrawal process, he or she will be ready to enroll in an addiction treatment program.