Is kratom really addictive? This is a good question. Anecdotal evidence from users indicate that it can be in some cases. Most people reporting opioid withdrawal symptoms from kratom use are long-term daily users of at least 15 to 20 grams a day. Lower usage in the five and under gram range is far less likely to result in even withdrawal symptoms, much less true addiction. That said, it must be noted that any substance capable of activating the brain’s opioid receptors, whether partially or fully, has the potential to be addictive.
Kratom is a partial activator of the brain’s mu opioid receptor. It contains two main alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, proven to be mu receptor partial agonists. 7-hydroxymitragynine is thought to be as much as 30 times stronger than morphine, although this would be greatly mitigated by the tiny amounts of the compound present in the raw kratom leaf and also by its partial activator status.
Partial opioid receptor activators can only bind to the receptors to a certain degree. The buprenorphine in Suboxone is also a partial mu agonist, although it’s far stronger than the levels of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine present in kratom.
There are a number of different strains of kratom available, but the three basic ones are red, green and white. These colors refer to the color of the veins present on the raw leaf, which can easily grow as large as a man’s hand. Kratom is a tree in the coffee family native to the southeast Asian area, where it’s been used as a folk remedy for pain and insomnnia and as an energizer and mood booster for many centuries. This is because the effects of kratom are dose-dependent. In amounts of 1 to under 5 grams, kratom acts more like a mild stimulant similar to drinking a couple cups of coffee. However, when taken in amounts of 5 to 15 grams, opioid-like effects appear. Kratom can definitely cause an opioid-like euphoria in some individuals. Since this euphoria is coming from the activation of the brain’s opioid receptors, addiction, tolerance and dependence are always possible.
Red, Green and White
Red vein kratom, sometimes called Bali, Red Dragon or Red Hulu, is supposed to be the most opioid-like, useful for pain and sleep and capable of inducing euphoria at higher doses. White kratom is supposed to be the energizing one, with the green variety producing effects that are somewhere in between. Maeng-da, Vietnamese for “pimp grade,” is touted as a special variant especially rich in the powerful opioid alkaloids, although this hasn’t been scientifically proven.
Kratom for Opioid Withdrawal
Another indicator of opioid receptor activity is the fact that kratom can relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms rather well. In fact, many former opioid abusers used the substance to get off their former opioid. Again, kratom must be acting on the opioid brain receptors to have this effect.
Kratom and the Law
Some brands of kratom have been found to be contaminated with bacteria like salmonella. Others have been discovered to be enhanced with other opioids, especially tramadol. However, there are many reputable brands of kratom offering a pure, safe product. Many offer a COA or Certificate of Analysis to prove purity and potency. Kratom sellers are forbidden by law to make any health claims about their product, though, because kratom isn’t recognized or approved by the FDA for this purpose. Kratom sellers making health claims on their websites or on their labels can expect a rather strongly worded letter from the FDA demanding that they cease and desist or face further legal action.
Kratom is banned in a number of countries and also in a number of the United States. Wisconsin, Arkansas, Vermont, Tennessee, Indiana and Rhode Island have all banned it outright. It’s legal in Ohio, but the state doesn’t like it much. It’s legal in California as long as you’re not within the city limits of San Diego. The DEA tried to place it as a Schedule I controlled substance in 2016, but public outcry and lobbying by the American Kratom Association silenced them. As of this writing, the FDA is pursuing an international ban. They truly hate kratom, probably because they can’t control it to their satisfaction. Kratom does not cause death by respiratory depression as other opioids do, and many claims of kratom overdose have been debunked.
We’re a group of drug treatment counselors familiar with kratom. We’d be happy to help you with any questions you may have about kratom or any kind of drug abuse or treatment situation. Just called us anytime at 833-820-2922 for the information you seek and any treatment solutions you may need.