Kratom Side Effects & Dangers

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Kratom is derived from the foliage of a tree indigenous to Southeast Asia. While not classified as an illegal substance, it is readily available online as leaves or powder. The packaging often bears a disclaimer that kratom is not meant for human consumption, yet it the substance commonly consumed for non-medical purposes. Some people have turned to kratom to alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms, although the effectiveness of this approach lacks robust scientific support.

DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration) is in the process of potentially categorizing kratom’s active compounds as Schedule I substances, which would outlaw certain preparations of the substance. At present, DEA has the authority to confiscate most forms of kratom, except for its raw leaf version.

Side Effects of Kratom

There is limited research on the effects of kratom. No clinical trials have been carried out to determine its safety for human consumption. Our current knowledge primarily relies on anecdotal reports from healthcare professionals and those who use the drug, as well as animal studies.

Researchers have identified over 20 biologically active compounds in kratom, including some that bind to mu-opioid receptors in the brain, potentially leading to dependence and addiction.

Beyond this, certain substances found in kratom can interfere with liver enzymes responsible for drug metabolism, potentially triggering dangerous interactions when combined with other medications. Reports of overdoses, some fatal, have been linked to the concurrent use of kratom and other drugs.

Due to the diverse chemical composition of kratom, its short-term effects can vary substantially. Also, dosage impacts the effects of kratom.

  • Low doses: At lower doses of 1g to 5g, kratom tends to trigger stimulant-like effects within 10 minutes. These effects last for 60 to 90 minutes. While most people find these effects enjoyable, some may experience anxiety and agitation. The primary stimulant side effects are like those of amphetamines but milder, including increased energy, alertness, reduced appetite, heightened sociability, and increased libido.
  • High doses: Kratom’s effects become more opioid-like at doses from 5g to 15 g, lasting several hours. The euphoria associated with kratom use is generally milder than that of traditional opioids, with some people describing it as unpleasant. Other opioid-like effects include pain relief, drowsiness, a calm and dreamlike mental state, cough suppression, and a reduction in opioid withdrawal symptoms. Doses exceeding 15g can lead to extreme sedation and, in some cases, loss of consciousness, resembling high opioid doses.

Kratom use can result in various negative side effects, ranging from mild to severe, similar to those of both stimulants and opioids. These side effects, like the desired effects, depend on dosage and include:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Facial flushing
  • Tremors
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Dizziness

While serious toxic effects appear to be rare – particularly with lower doses – there is limited information available to assess the long-term side effects and potential dangers of kratom use. Most severe toxic reactions have been associated with kratom doses of  15g or more, often characterized by seizures.

an image of someone dealing with the side effects of kratom use

Kratom Side Effects Long-Term

While the short-term effects of kratom use have been the focus of much research and discussion, the long-term side effects of kratom remain less understood due to limited scientific investigation. Some people have reported experiencing some persistent side effects after prolonged kratom use. Individual responses may vary, and more research is needed to establish a comprehensive understanding of the long-term effects of kratom.

Prolonged and heavy kratom use may be associated with various physical health concerns. These can include weight loss, digestive issues such as constipation, and potential harm to the liver. That said, the extent and causative relationship between these issues and kratom use require further investigation.

Some people have reported experiencing psychological side effects from long-term kratom use. These may include mood swings, irritability, and even symptoms of depression and anxiety. Again, more research is needed to establish whether these effects are directly attributable to kratom use and to what extent.

Like many substances with opioid-like properties, using kratom long-term leads to the development of tolerance. This means that individuals may need to consume increasing amounts to achieve the desired effects, which could lead to greater risks of dependence and addiction. Withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation of kratom have also been reported, but the severity and duration of these symptoms can vary widely from person to person.

Long-term kratom use may have social and occupational consequences. Some people have reported that their kratom consumption interferes with their daily lives, including work, relationships, and overall well-being. 

Dangers of Kratom Side Effects

While kratom is often promoted as a natural alternative for pain relief and other therapeutic purposes, the short-term and long-term side effects of the substance can pose significant risks.

One of the most pressing dangers of kratom use is the potential for dependence and addiction. Kratom contains compounds that act on opioid receptors in the brain. Resultantly, regular and prolonged use can lead to physical and psychological dependence. People may find it challenging to quit or reduce their kratom consumption, and withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, including anxiety, irritability, and cravings.

Kratom can have adverse effects on physical health, especially when used in excessive amounts or over an extended period. Reports of liver toxicity and other gastrointestinal issues have emerged, raising concerns about the potential harm to vital organs. Additionally, weight loss and malnutrition may occur in some individuals who rely heavily on kratom.

Kratom has been associated with mood disturbances, including anxiety and depression, in some people. Prolonged kratom use can lead to changes in mental well-being, impacting overall quality of life and mental health.

Kratom contains compounds that can interfere with drug-metabolizing enzymes in the liver, sometimes leading to dangerous interactions with other medications. Individuals who are taking prescription drugs should exercise caution when using kratom, as these interactions can be dangerous.

The kratom market is largely unregulated, leading to concerns about the quality and purity of products available for purchase. Contaminants, adulterants, or varying levels of active compounds can be present in kratom products, posing additional health risks.

While kratom overdose is relatively rare, it is not impossible, especially when used in excessive quantities or in combination with other substances. Symptoms of kratom overdose may include:

  • Extreme sedation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Life-threatening respiratory depression

Due to such limited scientific research on kratom, there are no standardized dosage guidelines for its safe use. This lack of guidance increases the risk of someone consuming doses that may be unsafe or unpredictable in their effects.

Treatment for Kratom Side Effects

Treatment for kratom long term side effects should begin with supervised detoxification at a professional facility staffed with trained medical personnel who can closely monitor progress and provide necessary medical support. Engaging with a supervised detox can streamline the kratom withdrawal process.

Given that kratom dependence is a relatively new and infrequent issue in Western countries, there are no established, specific treatment protocols for managing kratom withdrawal and addiction. Currently, the scientific literature mentions only a limited number of medications that have shown some utility in treating individuals dealing with kratom addiction and withdrawal. These medications are like those employed in the treatment of opioid addiction and include dihydrocodeine (a mild opioid) and lofexidine, (a medication designed for hypertension management).

Following detox, ongoing outpatient treatment should be sufficient to help people unpack the psychological aspect of dependence on kratom. Here’s how you can achieve this.

Get Treatment for Drug Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

We treat all addictions and mental health conditions in an outpatient setting at Ohio Recovery Centers in Cincinnati, OH. When you choose outpatient therapy at our treatment facility, you can meet your everyday obligations without compromising your recovery. We offer more intensive treatment programs for those who require a more structured experience.

All Ohio Recovery Centers treatment programs deliver tailored, evidence-based therapies that combine medication-assisted treatment, talk therapies, counseling, and holistic interventions. All treatment programs also include a comprehensive aftercare component.

To start tackling drug addiction head-on, call 877-679-2132.

Table of Contents

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn