According to data published in the journal, Addiction in 2021, the estimated prevalence of kratom usage amongst American adults in the previous year was 0.8%, or 1-in-125 people. The 2020 Census found that there were 258 million adults aged 18+ living in the U.S. This puts kratom usage at about 2.06 million individuals if we assume the above data is accurate.
It is a significant figure, yet relatively little is known about the substance despite the rapid rise in kratom usage. There are many doubts surrounding its usage, and it is not a substance approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Many concerns surround the drug’s potential for abuse and reported side effects, with unproven claims that it is responsible for numerous deaths. One area prospective users of this substance should look at is kratom withdrawal. Individuals suffering from this affliction often report experiencing uncomfortable and painful adverse effects.
In this article, we investigate kratom withdrawal, highlighting the symptoms, when it is likely to start, and how long you’re likely to experience the side effects of it. We also investigate whether kratom withdrawal is serious and the available addiction treatment options.
What Is Kratom Withdrawal?
The kratom products you buy come from the leaves of the kratom tree, a tropical plant known as Mitragyna speciosa, native to Southeast Asia. It contains potent alkaloids that have analgesic properties. Kratom is also linked to improved mood, increased focus and concentration, and improved sexual function.
However, kratom is potentially addictive, and when an individual uses it for a long time, they may become dependent on the substance’s effects. At this stage, the human body adapts to the drug and requires more to have the same impact as before. Also, the user develops a tolerance, a scenario that plays a huge role in dependence. The longer they use kratom, the less effect a specific dose has.
Kratom withdrawal occurs when such individuals try to significantly decrease or cut off their usage completely. Soon, their bodies desire kratom use, and a number of physical symptoms appear that can cause distress. These kratom withdrawal symptoms can range from mild and manageable to severe and distressing.
Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms
It is important to note that kratom affects the opiate receptors in the brain similarly to opioids such as hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine. It blocks pain signals and provides a mood-enhancing effect. Users often find the experience so pleasurable that they need to try it again and again.
If you attempt to stop using kratom or massively decrease your intake, a host of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms could occur. Since it works on the same opioid receptors as drugs like methadone, kratom withdrawal symptoms are similar to what you feel when you stop taking opioids.
Users tend to suffer from physical symptoms such as:
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Runny nose
- Excessive sweating
- Abdominal pain
- Hot flashes
Psychological symptoms may include:
- Severe depression
- Mood swings
When Do Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms Start?
Typically, withdrawal symptoms could begin 6 – 12 hours after you last used kratom, with the peak effects occurring 2 – 3 days after your last dose.
It isn’t known how many kratom users ultimately develop an addiction. Ultimately, it depends on how long a person uses it. We know that it contains various active chemicals that bind to receptors in the brain, including opioid receptors. As such, there is a danger that you enjoy the effects so much that you use it constantly.
Over time, your brain and central nervous system will get used to it, which leads to chemical dependence. Yet, it is likely that you’ll experience kratom withdrawal when you stop using it if any of the following issues affect you:
- An inability to stop using kratom
- A desire to use it even though it can cause unpleasant symptoms at times
- Using more of the drug in a setting than you intend
- Consuming large doses for several months
- A need to use the substance regularly
How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
Clearly, no one is looking forward to facing the mental and physical symptoms associated with the cessation of kratom use. As such, it is important to get at least a ballpark figure of how long you’re likely to pay for trying to end your drug dependence.
The duration of the withdrawal symptoms depends on factors such as:
- Addiction history
- Severity of use
- Kratom tolerance
- Mental health issues
- Whether you use other drugs with kratom
Overall, you may find that the symptoms last anywhere from 5 to 10 days, although the precise timeframe varies depending on how regularly you use the drug.
Is Kratom Withdrawal Dangerous?
This is another question that is tricky to answer conclusively. Typically, you can expect kratom withdrawal symptoms to be decidedly unpleasant. Given that kratom is similar to stimulants and opioids in terms of its effects, its withdrawal symptoms might also prove similar.
For instance, withdrawing from stimulants tends to result in physical discomfort and occasionally depression. Meanwhile, quitting opioids might lead to flu-like symptoms and drug cravings. As such, for most people, kratom withdrawal is not dangerous.
However, it is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms that cause life-threatening complications in rare cases. Once again, we should note the most pressing concerns with opioids. There are reports of people dying while experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms, with dehydration a major factor.
As you lose fluids during a kratom withdrawal due to symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and sweating, it is essential to remain well-hydrated. You require immediate treatment if your withdrawal symptoms are so severe that you can’t keep water down.
How Is Kratom Withdrawal Treated?
Individuals are diagnosed with a substance use disorder when they meet certain diagnostic criteria. In the United States, healthcare professionals use the criteria found in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). However, there is no specific diagnosis for kratom addiction in the DSM-5. As a result, it is more challenging for someone to receive treatment than if they have an opioid addiction, for example.
The first step involves talking to a medical professional and completing a physical exam. Individuals with severe symptoms may need to go through a medical detox period. This might involve checking into a medical detoxification facility staffed around the clock by healthcare staff. Such treatment centers should also monitor your progress to ensure your symptoms aren’t getting out of hand.
The best detox centers have clinicians available to handle your social and psychological needs and look after you physically. Their staff may include specialists who can help you handle problems such as trauma, depression, or anxiety.
While it depends on the severity of your symptoms, you’ll likely spend 5 – 10 days in a detox facility to ensure you recover fully. Of course, this is not necessarily the end of your treatment. If you have a kratom addiction, you may require therapy to address drug cravings, behavioral health, and mental health issues. Otherwise, there’s a danger of slipping back into kratom use.
Final Thoughts on Kratom Withdrawal
The jury remains out concerning kratom’s abuse potential. A survey by Johns Hopkins Medicine in 2020 looked at 2,800 kratom users. Researchers concluded that the compound had a lower rate of harm than prescription opioids for treating addiction, depression, pain, and anxiety.
Yet, when one considers the tens of thousands of people who die from an opioid overdose yearly, merely stating that kratom is less dangerous isn’t enough. The same survey found that up to 13% of responses met some criteria for a kratom-related substance use disorder.
Anyone within that percentage will likely experience kratom withdrawal symptoms if they cease using the substance. These symptoms range from bearable to almost intolerable and can last up to 10 days, depending on how regularly you use kratom.
In general, the kratom withdrawal process is not dangerous, but its symptoms could lead to harmful complications in a small percentage of people. Heavy kratom users may suffer from severe symptoms and need to use a detox center to ensure full addiction recovery.