Why is Kratom Addictive?
Like a lot of substances people put into their bodies, some of the chemicals in Kratom have addictive properties. In order to understand why we need to understand the effects Kratom has inside the brain. We also need to understand how addiction works and why people become addicted to things.
The Chemicals in Kratom
Kratom, a plant native to Southeast Asia, has been used by people of this region for a long time for the management of pain and opium withdrawal. In the West, Kratom is increasingly being used by individuals for the self-management of pain or withdrawal from opioid drugs such as heroin and prescription painkillers. – American Osteopathic Association, December 2012, Vol. 112, 792-799.
Among over 20 active ingredients found in Kratom, two are responsible for most of the effects as well as the tolerance and addiction potential. These are Mitragynine and Hydroxymitragynine. These chemicals have over a dozen studied effects on the body. The most notable effects are the binding of the μ-opioid receptor. “Main activity on μ-opioid creating opiate and analgesic effects and physical dependence.” – Source
What this means in normal-person terms is that the two main chemicals in Kratom act similarly to the way opiates act in the brain. This is why Kratom and opiates have similar effects and similar withdrawal symptoms.
According to the cited study, a small dose of Kratom is considered to be 1-5 grams of plant material. A medium-high dose is 5-15 grams. It’s not uncommon to read stories of people taking much higher doses as high as 30+ grams. When it comes to dosing kratom, it’s difficult to apply measurements that apply to all types of kratom. There are just too many factors that go into potency. A good rule of thumb when trying a new type of kratom is to start with a low dose and see what happens. If you desire more effects, try a medium dose, and so on. Work your way up slowly giving your body time to adjust and allow you to experience the full effects of the dose you’ve taken. The dosage rules I follow can be seen in the chart below. This is based on my experience using a white Maeng da kratom, which is considered a very powerful strain.
When ingesting substances, it takes time for your body to process and get rid of them. The term used to measure this is “half-life”. The half-life of a drug is how long it takes for your body to get rid of half of the drug in your system. According to this study, the half-life of Kratom is ~24 hours on average. For some it was 7 hours, others 48 hours.
In my own personal experience, the more tolerance you have, the quicker your body gets rid of the drug and the shorter the half-life. In my experience, it’s about 6 hours or so.
Tolerance: Your Body Gets Used to Kratom
The definition of tolerance according to drugabuse.gov is:
“Tolerance occurs when the person no longer responds to the drug in the way that person initially responded. Stated another way, it takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same level of response achieved initially.”
Another way to explain tolerance is by using coffee as an example. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself.
When you drink coffee for the first time in your life, you probably bounce off the walls. You might even feel a rush of euphoria, feeling absolutely amazing. If you drink the same amount of coffee for 30 days, by day 30 the effects won’t be nearly is notable as they were on day one.
If you double your dose and drink two cups, you’ll probably get that feeling again of energy any euphoria. After 30 days of drinking 2 cups, the same pattern will likely return.
This is because your body has built a tolerance to coffee, or the active ingredient in coffee, caffeine. Your body is used to the caffeine being present so it has adjusted to having that much caffeine. Your body always wants to get back to baseline. It’s a mechanism built in to help us adapt to our environment.
When your body has a tolerance to coffee, coffee won’t affect you that much. If you don’t drink any coffee, you might experience negative side effects like low energy, irritability, and headaches. These are called withdrawal symptoms. Your body has gotten used to having caffeine, so when there isn’t any caffeine, it doesn’t know what to do.
After some days have passed without drinking coffee, your body will adjust back to normal and your tolerance will be reduced until, eventually, you’ll be back where you started on day 1.
With this basic understanding of how tolerance and withdrawal works, you can see how building a tolerance to something can lead to withdrawals. This means the key to not experiencing withdrawals is to not build a tolerance.
It’s not until one experiences difficulties stopping their Kratom use that tolerance can be classified as an addiction. Deciding to use Kratom every day for energy and pain relief is not the same as compulsively using it to avoid withdrawal symptoms. The avoidance of withdrawal symptoms is the main reason why Kratom addicts can’t kick the habit. The main symptoms of Kratom withdrawal are:
- Dysphoria – feeling uneasy and unsatisfied with life
- Hypertension – high blood pressure
- Rhinorrhea – runny nose
- Myalgia – muscle aches
- Arthralgias – joint pain
If you do a little research on opiate withdrawals, you will see they are almost exactly the same. For this reason, treating these substances similarly is a good idea. A lot of Kratom promoters will argue this, but the facts tell an obvious tale. Even though kratom is not technically an opiate, its effects on the brain are similar as are the withdrawal symptoms.
Duration of Withdrawal Symptoms
If one quits using kratom abruptly, they will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as their last dose wears off. How long before they feel normal again depends on a lot of things. The biggest determining factor is your overall health. If you have healthy eating habits and drink a lot of. water, you will have an easier time than someone who does not. Exercise can also play a key role in speeding up the healing process of the body. Generally, the worst physical symptoms will last 1-2 weeks while the milder physical and mental symptoms can last as long as a few months. Healthy nutrition, exercise, and a positive attitude can help greatly. The best thing to do to get through this phase is to stay busy. Sitting around basking in your pain and suffering is probably the worst thing you can do. There are many reasons why people decide it’s time to quit using Kratom. Sometimes it’s personal reasons like stinky breath, Kratom powder stains, or just wanting to stop spending money on it. Some reasons are even more serious like health problems and the feeling of being trapped.