Kratom is a plant native to Southeast Asia. It is typically used for recreational purposes and has slowly made its way into the US market. Its leaves contain chemicals which produce a psychotropic (mind-altering) effect when ingested. While there is a lack of any known medical properties, there is currently no federal widespread ban on the drug. In fact, it is pretty easy to buy online in various forms. While it is not illegal in most states, that does not mean it can not be deadly or harmful. As many people consume alcohol, they will possibly mix Kratom and alcohol without realizing the potential risks.
Kratom is the name given to the Mitragyna speciosa species of trees. It goes by several other names such as Biak, Ketum, Kakuam or Thom. In its native regions, Kratom is used as a painkiller and stomach medicine but has no legitimate medical use. It is typically found online in its powdered or capsule form, but the leaves can be eaten raw or crushed.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies drugs in the US under several schedules. A schedule 1 drug for example is considered to have a very high risk for abuse and has no accepted medical purposes. Drugs such as marijuana and heroin are considered schedule 1 drugs. The DEA however has not scheduled Kratom under any of its classifications. Still, the DEA has listed Kratom as a ‘Drug of Concern.’ There is a push to make the drug illegal in the U.S. and in fact, 7 states have so far made it illegal to possess or use.
In 2016, the DEA announced that it was going to place Kratom under a schedule 1 classification. However, later in the year, the agency withdrew their notice of intent and began “soliciting comments from the public regarding the scheduling of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine under the Controlled Substances Act”. There have been no significant updates since then.
Kratom Side Effects
Kratom effects on the body can be unpredictable. In low doses, the drug acts as a stimulant, causing users to feel an increase in energy and alertness, but can also have sedative-like effects when taken in high enough doses. The two main compounds in the leaves, mitragynine and 7-a-hydroxymitragynine, bind to the opioid receptors in the brain which can cause sedation, a euphoric high and pain killing effects.
Kratom presents similar properties as some opioids. One of the cases for making Kratom a controlled substance rather than outright banning it is because some believe it can be used to treat opioid addiction. While there still needs to be more clinical trials to prove this, there is a push to keep it legal in the U.S.
Significant research is still necessary on Kratom, and it is difficult to say with certainty what effects Kratom will have on users. In general, users can expect to experience:
- Disrupted sleep
- Increased energy and alertness
- Cough suppression
- Pain reduction
- Weight loss
While not all of these effects are necessarily negative, some negative short-term effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
Mixing Kratom and Alcohol
It is difficult to predict what the effects of mixing kratom and alcohol might be. Generally, mixing alcohol with anything is inherently dangerous. Mixing two or more drugs (also known as polysubstance abuse) will generally cause the effects of the one drug to enhance the effects of each other, in particular the negative effects. Kratom can present sedative or stimulant properties while alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.
Given that Kratom can enhance the effects of alcohol, mixing the two drugs can cause the depressive effects of alcohol to be enhanced and as a result lead to alcohol poisoning or death. According to the National Poison Data System, between 2011-2017 there were 11 deaths associated with Kratom use. Nine of those deaths involved other drugs such as alcohol, fentanyl, cocaine, benzodiazepines and even caffeine.
Additionally, substance use often lowers inhibitions and causes impaired judgement. The more substances are added, the more at risk someone might be for potentially serious consequences.
Is Kratom Addictive?
There are two different types of addiction: chemical and psychological dependence. Given the similar effects to opioid drugs, it is very possible for an individual to become addicted to Kratom. It is still yet to be seen how severe Kratom addictions can be, as there lacks any clinical trials or an abundance of data to draw a conclusion from. Some users have reported becoming addicted to Kratom and have even experience Kratom withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Muscle aches
- Emotional changes
- Involuntary movements
- Runny nose
You can also develop a tolerance to Kratom, where you will need to take more of the drug to feel the same effects.
How long does kratom stay in your system?
There are currently no specific drug tests to detect the presence of Kratom in the body, most likely due to the obscurity of the drug. However, like most other substances, the duration of the chemical traces in your body will depend on the following factors:
- Frequency of use
- Body fat
- Metabolic rate
There is no known half-life for Kratom but one the primary alkaloids found in Kratom, mitragynine, has a half-life of around 24 hours. Essentially, it would take a person a full day to remove 50% of the alkaloid and the alkaloid can be detected in some drug tests.
With the lack of research on Kratom, it may be easy to believe that the drug cannot be dangerous. Its lack of popularity is not due to medical acceptance as the drug can still be very dangerous when misused. Alcohol is legal and widely used, but also presents serious risk of misuse, abuse and addiction. More research is necessary on Kratom and alcohol, but it is better not to mix at all. Staying informed on the dangers can help keep you safe against abuse, addiction, or overdosing. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, please do not hesitate to contact us.