The leaves of the tropical tree native to Southeast Asia have become a popular hit among users for the its sedative-narcotic effects. Touted as a replacement for opium-based products, Kratom (the herbal extract) from the Mitragyna speciosa tree is widely used and abused for its stimulant properties. Most users tend to wrongly assume that products tagged as natural or herbal are safe for use. Consequently, the opportunity to use and abuse substances are higher, resulting in possible serious consequences. Here is a look at the side effects of kratom and measures to either prevent or mitigate the possible undesirable effects.
Overview and side effects of kratom
The stimulant is typically used in certain communities and sections of users to fight fatigue as a result of extended work and physically demanding labor. Despite being banned in certain states in the US, the leaves of the tree are not considered as illegal substances elsewhere. It is also used effectively to help individuals fighting with drug withdrawal symptoms. For instance, patients who have been successfully taken off drugs such as morphine, heroin or drugs belonging to other opioid categories often experience withdrawal symptoms. Kratom is used to help patients overcome these symptoms gradually, with its mild narcotic and sedative properties.
Before we look at the side effects of kratom here is a quick look at how the stimulant works. The extract contains mitragynine, a chemical that works with a mechanism of action that is similar to opioids like morphine, that is generally used as a pain reliever. It also has properties that makes its mechanism of action similar to that of stimulants. This is attributed to two specific compounds in the extract – mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine. These compounds work in the opioid receptors in the brain, resulting in certain sensory effects. For instance, individuals experience lesser pain stimuli, while simultaneously experiencing a sense of pleasure.
This may or may not be accompanied by sedative effects. The combination of the various properties and effects gives this product its narcotic-sedative impact. Depending on the amount of the substance used, individuals may either end up with elevated levels of alertness or feel drowsy. When taken in small quantities, the user feels alert, while heavy amounts cause drowsiness. Side effects of kratom can actually be dangerous when the amount consumed is high – in the category of abuse.
Potential uses of kratom
To understand the side effects of kratom it is essential to learn all about its potential uses. This will help identify situations where the individual is likely to experience side effects of the substance. It is reportedly used to help individuals overcome acute pain as a result of extended working hours in environments that require intensive physical labor. It is also used by individuals to cope with depression and anxiety. However, it is not scientifically proven or recommended to use the substance for managing depression or anxiety. Most reasons for use of the substance are attributed to the properties of the substance.
It is used to enhance athletic performance, due to its ability to help decrease the sensations of pain. Consequently, individuals take to the substance to help train with greater intensity, without having to put up with the pain of increased training efforts. It is also used to treat cough, apart from managing conditions due to diabetes. Additionally, it is also used for treating patients with diarrhea, and high levels of blood pressure. As mentioned earlier, it is used for managing withdrawal effects from addictive substances. Finally, it is also used to help individuals overcome sexual relation issues. Specifically, individuals often feel lesser satisfaction or fulfilment from sexual intercourse, and the use of such stimulants help to increase the pleasure associated with sex. This is because of in the increased feeling of gratification in the reward pathways.
Precautions to prevent side effects of kratom
The best method yet to prevent side effects of kratom is to understand all the precautions that need to be followed. This helps in avoiding situations that can result in the manifestation of undesirable effects. Pregnant women are advised caution while taking Kratom as the substance is known to induce side effects in new born babies. Infants typically experience withdrawal effects of Kratom, if the mothers have consumed the substance in any form for extended period during pregnancy. On a similar note, the substance has not been the subject of testing on breastfeeding mothers. Therefore, there is little evidence to either support or oppose the use of kratom by mothers when breastfeeding babies.
Use of the substance alongside other intoxicants may potentially increase the side effects of kratom. For instance, individuals who consume alcohol while taking Kratom may be possibly exposed to elevated side effects apart from the higher intoxication levels. This could result in possible untoward consequences, especially while driving. Additionally, the tendency to have suicidal thoughts is also known to increase when the two substances are taken together.
Other serious side effects of kratom include the possibility of increased risk among patients with heart ailments. For instance, the substance may increase the pace of heart beat, depending on the amount consumed. While this may not, by itself, pose a risk to healthy individuals, if the elevated heart beats fare for a shorter duration, it is certainly a risk to patients with existing heart conditions. Individuals with such conditions are therefore advised to stay off the substance.
The tendency to commit suicide may aggravate among patients on Kratom. Patients harboring suicidal thoughts and undergoing medication are likely to end up with a stronger desire to commit suicide, when put on Kratom. This counts as serious side effects of kratom and makes the substance unsafe for use by patients with known mental disorders. Individuals without any known mental disorders are unlikely to experience such thoughts or tendencies when on the substance. Caregivers are to ensure that substances with Kratom extracts are not administered to patients with the above mental disorders.
Commonly reported side effects of kratom
In addition to the above, there is the possibility of individuals experiencing certain commonly reported side effects of kratom. For instance, there could be a clear numbing sensation in the tongue, which may result in possible slurring of speech. Nausea is another symptom that could be experienced by individuals on the medication, while others typically feel the urge to urinate frequently. Contrastingly, individuals also experience a possible dry feeling in the mouth, that is generally experienced for a short duration. Apart from the above, patients may also experience bouts of constipation that could resolve naturally in some cases, but may require medication in other instances.
Additionally, patients on the stimulants are also known to turn aggressive in behaviour, apart from exhibiting behavior that is abnormal in nature. For instance, side effects of kratom include delusional feelings among users, while others are known to hallucinate. In a certain percentage of users, thyroid problems are known to manifest as a result of the medication. Serious side effects of kratom are also a possibility when the substance intake is higher. Swelling of the brain is one such serious undesirable effect as a result of the medication. This is not common in occurrence, but requires medical intervention to resolve the effect. Difficulty in breathing is another effect of the medication, and as mentioned above, may require assistance depending on the duration or the intensity of the problem
Two other serious side effects of kratom include the possibility of seizures in a limited number of patients. Similarly, liver damage is another possible outcome of the substance when taken in large doses. Fatalities, though rare in occurrence are a possibility, depending on the side effect, its intensity, and the absence of timely medical intervention. By virtue of belonging to the category of opioid substitutes, there is a very strong possibility of dependence among users. Sensory pleasure, pain relief and other stimulating effects of the substance are responsible for the habit-forming properties.
Abrupt cessation of the extract is also known to cause undesirable side effects of kratom. Individuals on the substance for a reasonably lengthy period of time are likely to experience the impact of stopping the product. For instance, there is the possibility of a sudden and abnormal lack of appetite among users on discontinuation of kratom. Other symptoms that are experienced by users include diarrhea, and hot flashes. Similarly, users who stop the substance intake may experience spams and muscle pains without any particularly attributable reason. Difficulty in falling asleep, or anxious feelings are manifestations that possibly indicate withdrawal effects. Finally, fever has also been reported by individuals who have stopped the medication.
Statistics that reveal point to the gravity of effects
Despite its analgesic and stimulant properties, there are adequate and repeat warnings from the FDA regarding side effects of kratom. The numbers tell the story – studies reveal that more than 260 individuals got in touch with various poison centers in the US a few years ago, after experiencing complications from Kratom products and extracts. Depending on the dose consumed, there could be serious side effects, while consumption in limited or smaller quantities, may not create complications. However, as it belongs to the category of substances that induce dependence, there is every possibility of a gradual increase in the doses. This may take it beyond safe thresholds. For instance, when 1 to 5 grams of Kratom are consumed, it results in actions similar to that of stimulants. When the dosage is increased, anywhere between 5 gms to 15 gms, the substance delivers pain relieving effects and sedative effects. These outcomes are similar to opioids, and when this is either taken for a long duration or if dosage is increased, it can result in serious consequences. The issue is further compounded by the available formulations. It is available as a pill, in capsule form, while certain communities smoke or chew the powdered leaves. The powdered form of the leaves is also mixed in beverages. These forms are considered as highly risky as there is limited possibility of restricting the intake. The effects of the substance begin manifesting within 10 minutes of intake, with the effects lasting as long as 5 hours. When the onset of the high is delayed, individuals are likely to increase intake, which could cause serious complications.