Despite threats from government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), kratom remains federally legal. Moreover, alcohol is also widely available throughout the country. Therefore, one would assume that combining kratom and alcohol, two legal substances, should not prove excessively dangerous.
If only it were that simple! The truth is there are a host of legal prescription drugs that could cause significant harm to a person. This is especially the case when an individual drug is abused or when certain substances are combined. While taking kratom is becoming an increasingly popular pursuit, researchers are still gathering evidence regarding its safety and efficacy.
There’s a growing concern about the trend of combining alcohol and kratom, chiefly because there’s little research into the effects. However, mixing the two could likely cause adverse effects. The question is how serious these side effects are. This article investigates how kratom and alcohol interact, looks into the adverse effects, and discusses the possibility of taking kratom to help with alcohol addiction.
How Do Kratom and Alcohol Interact?
When taken alone, kratom can provide positive and negative effects depending on the dose. There is a suggestion that low doses (up to 5 grams) can result in increased energy, focus, and an elevated mood. However, side effects such as vomiting, confusion, and high blood pressure have also been reported.
Once the dose is increased beyond 8 grams, particularly among inexperienced users, adverse effects may become more severe and could include hallucinations and seizures.
Kratom has a similar impact on the brain as stimulants and opioids. Consequently, it can stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) or have effects similar to CNS depressants such as alcohol and opioids.
When you combine kratom and alcohol, the latter’s CNS depressant effects, such as drowsiness, slurred speech, and impaired coordination, are likely exacerbated. This is especially the case with higher doses of kratom.
It is usually a bad idea to mix stimulants with alcohol also. The depressant effects of alcohol can cancel out kratom’s stimulant effects. As a result, the user consumes more kratom to get the feeling they seek. By doing so, they significantly increase their risk of harm.
What Are the Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Kratom?
Consuming excessive levels of kratom and alcohol together could have devastating consequences, potentially fatal ones. Here are some of the most troubling.
When used in moderation, kratom is possibly a safe compound. However, given the propensity for people to overdo the dosage when consuming alcohol, the danger of a kratom overdose intensifies.
According to research published by the FDA, there were 11 deaths associated with kratom exposure in the United States between 2011 and 2017. Two of these deaths involved nothing other than kratom use. Estimates for the number of fatalities relating to a kratom overdose vary. However, in virtually every report, a huge majority of kratom-related deaths involved using at least one other substance, including alcohol.
Typically, a kratom overdose might lead to the following adverse outcomes:
- Kidney failure
- Respiratory arrest
- Cardiac arrest
Apart from a possible kratom overdose, another danger of combining alcohol and kratom is contamination. The above report outlined that kratom could contain harmful contaminants.
Unfortunately, the industry is poorly regulated, so organizations can spring up, sell kratom products, and then disappear with your money. Furthermore, there are no quality control measures in place. Therefore, it isn’t surprising to learn that various kratom products online have tested positive for heavy metals such as nickel and lead.
Using kratom products tainted with such contaminants can result in heavy metal poisoning, which includes the following side effects:
- An increased risk of cancer
- Kidney damage
- Nervous system damage
- High blood pressure
In 2018, the FDA released a statement from its Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb. In it, the government agency outlined the risk of salmonella in kratom products. The effects of salmonella poisoning include:
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pain
An Increased Risk of Kratom Addiction and Withdrawal Symptoms
Since kratom acts similarly to opioids, offering a mood boost and potentially alleviating pain, there’s a risk of addiction. As consuming the substance with alcohol may result in greater consumption, the risk of addiction grows when you mix kratom with alcohol.
Furthermore, once you reach a level of kratom dependence and try to stop using the substance, you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms. It is the same for individuals with alcohol use disorders who try to quit drinking.
Side Effects of Kratom and Alcohol
Apart from the risks of addiction, overdose, and contaminated products, a combination of kratom and alcohol may result in the following side effects:
- Increased anxiety
- Altered perception
- Loss of muscle control
- High blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate
Ultimately, the dangers of mixing kratom and alcohol increase because they are both potentially addictive substances.
Side Effects of Mixing Kratom with Other Substances
The available research to date suggests that mixing kratom with other drugs is potentially dangerous. The CDC linked kratom usage to approximately 150 deaths in 2016 and 2017, a figure far beyond what the FDA stated. However, according to a comprehensive review of kratom, polysubstance use accounted for approximately 87% of deaths attributed to the substance. In other words, an overwhelming majority of mortalities linked to kratom involved using at least one other substance.
Alcohol is one of the main culprits, but benzodiazepines (nicknamed “benzos”) are another drug class commonly used with kratom. Typically, people use benzos to treat anxiety disorders. Popular brands include Valium and Xanax. Individuals may choose to combine kratom and benzos to achieve the following effects:
- Improve sleep quality
- Enhance mood
- Reduce chronic pain
- Reduce the withdrawal symptoms associated with other drugs
However, using both drugs together means you’re not using them as directed, and the results can be devastating. CDC research found that in 2017, 22% of kratom overdose deaths involved benzodiazepines.
It is relatively challenging to overdose on benzos on their own as extremely high doses are required. Yet, they can interact with other substances to cause an overdose. Side effects of kratom and benzos may include:
- Extremely slowed breathing
Can You Use Kratom to Treat Alcohol Addiction?
While taking kratom with alcohol is a potentially dangerous act, there’s a suggestion that you could use the substance to tackle an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Research conducted at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy suggests that kratom contains certain alkaloids that could be used to treat AUD.
According to Susruta Majumdar, Ph. D, who co-authored the paper, alcohol has a different effect on the brain than opioids because it interacts with different opioid receptors. The researchers found that some of kratom’s alkaloids may be developed to target these opioid receptors to create treatments for alcoholism.
However, Majumdar pointed out the risks of self-medicating with kratom. He stressed that kratom wasn’t a “cure” for AUD, although the research is certainly exciting. Ultimately, there isn’t enough research to suggest the efficacy of kratom in tackling AUD. Indeed, since it is an addictive substance, it is unwise to involve it when you already have an addiction to another drug!
What About Kratom for Hangovers or Alcohol Withdrawal?
By now, you’re hopefully aware of the risks involved when you drink alcohol with kratom. Yet, there’s a theory that suggests kratom can help deal with alcohol hangover symptoms. According to proponents of this idea, a 2–6-gram dose of kratom works wonders for alleviating using symptoms.
However, some people who have tried it claim they feel even worse and suffer severe nausea. Getting the dose right is critical in this scenario. A low dose may act as a pain reliever and increase energy, while large doses are linked with unpleasant adverse effects.
There are also reports that kratom might reduce the effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. If you have an AUD and try to stop drinking, you can expect to face side effects such as headaches, dizziness, sweating, vomiting, and nausea. As is the case with the theory behind kratom reducing hangover symptoms, there’s no hard evidence to prove that it is an effective means of combatting alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
How to Get the Help You Need for an Addiction to Kratom & Alcohol
If you or a loved one has a kratom or alcohol addiction, please remember that help is widely available. For individuals with an addiction, taking the first step is typically the hardest thing to do.
There is a huge volume of treatment centers dedicated to alcohol addiction. However, until recently, the best you could hope for if you had a kratom addiction was to find a general addiction clinic. Things have changed in the last few years, with a growing number of kratom addiction centers opening across the United States.
These clinics are staffed with experts who offer a variety of treatment options. These can include going “cold turkey” or tapering with the aid of a professional. You can also avail of cognitive behavioral therapy to treat behaviors and reduce the risk of reverting to kratom use.