- Addiction & recovery
Overcoming Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms
June 19, 2021
The increasing popularity of kratom in the U.S. and its legal status has led many Americans to turn to kratom as a form of self-medication to treat chronic pain and opioid withdrawals, even though it has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for any medical use. While some use kratom for recreational purposes, a growing number of people are now turning to kratom as an alternative to heroin and opioids.
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa Korth), a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and New Guinea, has a long history of medicinal and ceremonial use in their native community. Traditionally kratom leaves are often consumed by chewing 10 to 30 fresh leaves each day or by brewing dry powdered leaves as tea. But it’s now readily available in many forms, including capsules, tablets, liquids, and resin via the internet.
The effects of kratom are dose-dependent. The two main compounds in kratom leaves, mitragynine, and 7-α-hydroxymitra-gynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain similarly to most prescription opioids. These compounds produce sedative effects when consumed in large doses and stimulant effects when consumed in lower doses.
Despite the FDA’s concerns, its use has grown in the United States, as demonstrated by an increase in calls to poison control centers from 2010 to 2015, as well as reports of kratom usage in conjunction with benzodiazepines, opioids and other substances. While more research is required to understand the long-term effects and consequences of kratom use, medical experts believe that kratom contains properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, misuse, and dependence. And as a result, people may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.
Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms
To overcome kratom withdrawal symptoms and dependence, one must first identify its signs and symptoms. However, not every kratom user will experience a withdrawal process, which is especially true for moderate users.
In general, regular users of kratom are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms as they form a dependence and tolerance on the substance over prolonged use. Common physical withdrawal symptoms include:
- Jerky movements
- Runny nose and watery eyes
- Muscle aches
- Dilated pupils
- Blurred vision
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
- Sweating and hot flashes
Psychological withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Changes in mood
Heavy regular users may also experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Such users may suffer from anxiety, depression, and insomnia, that come and go in waves. It may take several weeks or months before these symptoms subside.
Kratom Withdrawal Timeline
How quickly withdrawal symptoms appear and how long they persist are determined by the dose and the duration of use. Your last dosage can also influence when the effects wear off and when withdrawal signs appear.
Kratom withdrawal symptoms usually appear within 12 and 24 hours after the last dose. And symptoms can last anywhere from three to seven days. And the typical withdrawal timeline is as follows:
The First 12 Hours: Flu-like symptoms and feelings of depression and anxiety are common within 12 hours after the last dose.
Days 1-3: Symptoms normally peak during these few days. Individuals are most at risk of relapsing during this period.
Days 4-7: Severe symptoms will start to fade during this period. However, individuals who are experiencing PAWS may still have certain mild symptoms.
While severe symptoms subside within a week, some less severe symptoms can last for many months to years, especially for heavy kratom users. Psychological symptoms such as mood swings, depression, anxiety, and cravings may also remain.
Kratom Detox Guidelines
Abruptly discontinuing the usage of kratom is not recommended, as this may cause adverse reactions. Individuals are highly recommended to detox under the supervision and guidance of physicians or addiction specialists to minimize the risks involved. Medical teams help gradually reduce the kratom dosage to minimize cravings and withdrawal symptoms during the detox process. A kratom detox program consists of many different elements, including:
Evaluation: During the detox evaluation process, blood tests, screening for psychiatric and physical disorders, a thorough review of the patient’s medical and social background and current state, and a general risk assessment of the withdrawal process are conducted to help design a recovery plan.
Stabilization: After the evaluation process is completed, individuals in recovery enter the stabilization process. Depending on the severity and type of symptoms, medications are prescribed during this period.
Treatment Transition: After completing detox, depending on the severity of an individual’s condition, healthcare practitioners will recommend inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation for further treatment.
While the detox process helps address the physical dependence on kratom, Inpatient or outpatient treatment is required to address the psychological aspect of kratom dependence.
Benefits of Medical Detoxification for Kratom
Medical detox comes with additional benefits, such as higher patient safety, medical assistance during complications, and a lower relapse rate. On the other hand, detoxing on your own can lead to complications and health impairments.
When the detox process is completed under professional medical care, complications are avoidable. Medical professionals can prescribe you medications to better cope with symptoms and physical discomfort, making detox and withdrawal more manageable.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), long-term kratom use can lead to insomnia, weight loss, and anorexia. When used with other drugs or alcohol, kratom has a significant potential for serious health implications, including death.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), kratom misuse is linked to severe mental illnesses that require care in a psychiatric hospital. Therefore, long-term treatment is essential to manage such potential complications.
Treatment for kratom addiction requires medical and therapeutic approaches in a structured substance misuse recovery program. Underlying medical or mental health disorders and environmental factors like chronic stress, childhood trauma, and other external pressures can contribute to kratom dependency. Thus, these crucial factors also need addressing in long-term treatment to achieve a sustainable recovery.
The long-term treatment approach includes therapy and counseling offered in a residential or outpatient setting. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a successful therapeutic method in addiction treatment that helps individuals identify their disorder’s underlying causes or potential triggers. CBT helps people change potentially self-destructive behaviors by resolving unhealthy thought patterns and poor self-esteem.
Counseling may include both family and individual sessions in which communication skills are discussed and improved. Support groups and 12-Step initiatives can be part of ongoing or aftercare support services, and they may be beneficial during rehabilitation by fostering healthier relationships between peers in similar situations.
How to Avoid a Relapse?
The best way to avoid relapse is by engaging in ongoing treatment after the detox process. Addressing the underlying reason that led you to use kratom is also crucial. The following ongoing treatment interventions can help you minimize the risk of relapse:
- Expressive therapy explores the various ways in which each person may express themselves through creative and expressive outlets such as art and music.
- Trauma-focused therapy helps people address emotional trauma, developing a roadmap to tackle it head-on and leave it where it belonged in the past.
- Motivational interviewing focuses on each individual’s particular strengths and skills to develop a strong mentality and show that they can achieve anything.
- Case management helps individuals repair their credit, deal with public records, and resolve issues related to education and employment.
- Addressing and receiving adequate treatment for co-occurring disorders.
- Aftercare programs offer each client methods, strategies, and a collection of resources to help them adjust to their normal lives without the risk of relapse.
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