Kratom Short-Term, Long-Term, Side Effects, and Addiction Treatment
What Is Kratom?
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tree-like plant from Southeast Asia that belongs to the same family of plants as coffee and gardenias. Kratom has been used as an herbal remedy in Thailand and neighboring countries for hundreds of years for a number of ailments. It has dose-dependent stimulant- and opiate-like effects. In addition to being used for an energy boost, as well as for some mild pain relief, there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that kratom may be helpful in the management of withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate addiction.
Since 2000, there has been a substantial increase in rates of kratom usage in North America and Europe—both as a recreational drug and for the self-management of pain and opiate withdrawal (a practice advised against by most medical professionals).
You may be wondering, ‘how long does a kratom high last?’ The effects of kratom are dose-dependent, but heavier use will result in a high that lasts for several hours.
Is Kratom Bad for You?
Scientific information about the effects of kratom use is limited and there have been no controlled clinical trials conducted to determine whether it is safe for human use. Most of our current knowledge regarding this drug comes from anecdotal reports by users and doctors, as well as animal experiments.
Kratom is not a controlled substance in the U.S., and it is sold on the Internet and in head shops in various forms, including as:
- Loose chopped leaves (to make tea).
- Compressed tablets.
Researchers have found more than 20 biologically active chemicals in the drug, including several that bind to opioid receptors in the human brain and have the potential to lead towards physical dependence and addiction.
Although the plant has a long history of use as an herbal medicine in Southeast Asia, kratom abuse is also well known in the region—the drug has been banned in Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar due to its addictive potential.
Finally, some chemicals found in kratom interfere with drug-metabolizing enzymes in the liver and may cause dangerous interactions with other drugs or medications. Overdoses—some of them fatal—have been reported in users who have taken kratom in combination with other drugs.
What Are the Effects of Kratom?
Short-Term Effects of Kratom Use
Because of the unique mix of chemicals in kratom, the short-term effects of the drug are complex and variable. The balance between stimulant-like and opiate-like effects depends on the dose taken, and different users have reported significantly different experiences with the drug even when taking the same dose.
Kratom’s Effects at Low Doses
At a low dose (1-5 g) of kratom, stimulant-like effects predominate. These are felt within 10 minutes and last for 60 to 90 minutes. While reports by users indicate that most people find these effects pleasant, some users experience an uncomfortable sense of anxiety and agitation. The primary stimulant-like side effects of kratom are similar to those of amphetamine, though less intense, and include:
- Increased energy and alertness.
- Decreased appetite.
- Increased sociability.
- Heightened libido.
Kratom’s Effects at Moderate-to-High Doses
Moderate-to-high doses (5-15 g) of kratom have primarily opioid-like effects that last for several hours.
The euphoric “high” induced by kratom is reportedly less intense than that of other opioid drugs, and some users describe the experience as unpleasant or dysphoric. Other opiate-like effects include:
- Analgesia (pain reduction).
- Calm, dreamlike mental state.
- Cough suppression.
- Reduction in symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
Doses of kratom greater than 15 g have effects similar to those of high doses of opioids, including extreme sedation and a loss of consciousness in some cases.
What Are the Dangers of Kratom Use?
Kratom Side Effects
There are several negative side effects of kratom use that range in severity from inconvenient to dangerous. Like the sought-after effects listed above, the side effects of kratom are dependent on the dose taken and are similar to those of stimulant drugs and opiates, including:
- Pupillary constriction (tiny pupils).
- Facial flushing (blushing).
- Tremors or loss of motor coordination.
- Nausea and vomiting.
Serious toxic effects appear to be rare among reports by users and healthcare providers, but there is little information available to estimate the true long-term side effects and dangers of kratom use. Most serious toxic reactions have been associated with high doses of kratom (>15 g) and have been characterized by seizures.
The dangers of kratom use appear to be especially pronounced in the case of “Krypton,” which is an herbal product marketed as an especially potent form of kratom. Krypton is actually a combination of kratom and O-desmethyltramadol, a chemical otherwise encountered as a metabolite of the pain medication tramadol (Ultram.) This combination increases the depressive effects on the central nervous system and Krypton use has been blamed for several deaths in Sweden.
Long-Term Effects of Kratom Use
Judging by research done on chronic, high-dose kratom users in Thailand, there are several unusual long-term side effects of kratom abuse, such as:
- Hyperpigmentation, or darkening of the facial skin.
- Anorexia and weight loss.
However, available evidence does not suggest that long-term kratom use damages organs or other parts of the body.
Potential for Kratom Addiction
The most significant danger posed by long-term kratom use is the development of dependence and addiction. Some chemicals found in the drug activate opiate signaling in the brain and, in doing so, help mitigate the withdrawal symptoms caused by addictive opioid drugs such as heroin and oxycodone. These features strongly suggest that kratom itself can be addictive, and evidence from users supports this view.
Long-term kratom users, whether in Southeast Asia or the West, have been reported to become tolerant to kratom and require progressively larger doses of the drug to experience the same effects. Some long-term users eventually develop compulsive drug taking behavior and are unable to stop their intake, despite experiencing negative consequences of their substance use.
Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms
In one study, more than 50% of people who used the drug regularly for at least 6 months developed a kratom dependency. Dependent users of the drug suffer physical withdrawal symptoms similar to those of opiate withdrawal if they stop taking it suddenly. Some of the symptoms of kratom withdrawal include:
- High blood pressure.
- Runny nose.
- Joint and muscle pain.
- Intense craving for kratom.
Kratom Withdrawal and Addiction Treatment Types
Users withdrawing from kratom may prefer to detox at a professional detoxification facility where trained medical staff can monitor them and provide medical support. Some symptoms of kratom withdrawal, such as increased blood pressure, can present a medical risk to recovering users and, by making the patient more comfortable, detox care can increase the chances that the individual will complete the often uncomfortable process of withdrawal.
Because kratom dependence is new and relatively uncommon in the West, there are no specific treatment regimens for kratom withdrawal and addiction. To date, the scientific literature only makes mention of a few medications useful in treating patients with kratom addiction and managing withdrawal. These drugs are similar to those used for treating opiate addiction and include dihydrocodeine—a weak opiate—and lofexidine—a drug used for high blood pressure.
Following successful withdrawal from kratom, drug treatment at inpatient or outpatient rehab facilities can help patients successfully recover from addiction and regain their health. Aftercare programs and group recovery organizations can help those in recovery adapt to drug-free lives and avoid future relapses.
How to Find Treatment for Kratom Addiction
Recovery is waiting for anyone struggling with kratom misuse. Treatment can start anyone battling addiction on the path to a healthier and happier life. Rehab facilities are located throughout the U.S. You can use SAMHSA’s Find Treatment tool to search for programs. Many state government websites will provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’
If you think you may have a problem with kratom, you can reach out for help free of charge today. Contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) at to discuss treatment options. You can use the form below to determine whether your health insurance provider will cover kratom addiction treatment.