Finding a solution to the modern opioid crisis is certainly one of the highest priorities in our country. For the 12 month period ending April, 2021, over 100,000 people in the US died from an opioid overdose, and three million people in the US suffer from opioid use disorder (OUD).
Kratom users report that this natural supplement produces the same effects as opiates without any of the risks and side-effects. Recent studies and statistics would suggest that Kratom could replace opioids and significantly lower the addiction rate, and death rates we are currently experiencing.
Since 1999, almost one million people have died from opioid overdose, representing 75% of all overdoses. With almost 150 million prescriptions for opioids given out each year, it is time for a product to replace opioids that delivers the same results without the potential for such harm. The crisis is so significant that experts point to the opioid crisis as one of the primary explanations for the downward shift in US life expectancy.
This 8,000 year old problem, that has plagued the human race, has finally met its match. Kratom is a natural substance derived from the leaves of the Mitragyna Speciosa plant, a relative of the coffee plant. While this new and natural substance has only begun the clinical trials that will unlock all its secrets, Kratom has been used for centuries throughout Asia to replace opioids and even help with the transitional discomfort that goes along with quitting opioids.
The use of Opioids carries a variety of significant health risks, both physical and psychological. Physical risks include addiction, overdose and physical dependence. Opioid addiction is associated with significant morbidity and mortality due to overdose and other medical complications. Overdose is a condition when the amount of opioids consumed exceeds the body’s ability to metabolize them and can result in respiratory depression, coma and even death.
Psychological risks associated with opiate use include anxiety, depressions and impaired concentration. These conditions can range from mild to severe. Cognitive impairment can include problems with memory, attention and problem solving which can create difficulties at work or school.
Kratom has been used for centuries throughout SouthEast Asia without developing a reputation for addiction or the many physical or psychological risks associated with opioids. In fact, Kratom has been used as a safe and effective substitute for opiates for most of its history. While Kratom has only been popular in the US for a few decades, millions of people use the product on a daily basis, and there is no evidence to suggest that it has the addictive properties similar to opiates.
Is Kratom an Opiate?
No, Kratom is not an opiate. The alkaloids in Kratom mimic the effect that opioids have on the opioid receptors in the brain, just without the over-use and addictive potential associated with opioids.
The opioid receptors in your brain play an important role in the regulation of pain, pleasure and emotions. Under normal conditions, these receptors interact with our naturally occurring opioids (endorphins). When an opioid molecule binds to an opioid receptor, it triggers a chain of events that leads to a reduction in the perception of pain and an increase in feelings of calm and well-being. One of the primary reactions is a release of dopamine which regulates pain, pleasure and reward.
Kratom in its natural form, as a leaf or leaf powder, is less potent than traditional opioids, but recent developments in formulations that involve extractions and concentrations of the active alkaloids, have produced potencies that users report being similar to prescription opioids. The result is several product categories that can purport substantially different effects depending on the concentration and potency of the formulation. Lower concentration powders are said to produce calming effects with a heightened sense of well being, and higher concentration users report substantial pain relieving benefits. These formulations allow users to define the potency based on the effects they are looking for.
While Kraotm use does not come without risk, the historic and modern usage patterns have indicated that the risk is substantially lessened.
Using Kratom as a Opiate Replacement
The meteoric growth in the US Kratom industry over the last decade has come largely from what users describe as ‘effects that mimic the benefits of opioids without the extreme risks of side-effects, addictions or worse”. Kratom is available in the subtle but long lasting leaf powders, as well as the more potent liquid extracts as well as extract powder and extract powder capsules. This offers a potency band that allows users to consume very low doses of the active alkaloids if that is all they are looking for, but also makes products available for people who require significantly stronger concentrations of these compounds.
The active compounds in Kratom, Mitragynine and 7-HydroxyMitragynine, react with the brain’s opioid receptors in a manner that mimics the effects that Opiates produce. This means Kratom will produce the same benefits depending on the concentration used. Users have reported that the presently available liquid or powder extract concentrations have analgesic (pain relieving) properties similar to the opiate they were previously using.
User Reported Lower Concentration Properties:
- Calming and Improved Sense of Well-being
- Increased Energy and Motivation
- Increased Cognitive Performance, Focus and Concentration
- Reduced Stress, Anxiety and Social-stress
User Reported Higher Concentration Properties:
- Relief of Chronic Pain (particularly muscle and joint pain)
- Sedative effect, Calming and Anti-Stress
- Improved Sleep and Relief from Sleep Disorders like Insomnia
Users also report subtle differences with the strain and variety selected. Red, white and green vein strains are derived from Kratom leaves harvested at different times in the plant’s growing cycle. As the plant matures, it develops different levels of the psychoactive compounds which produces subtle but noticeable changes to the effect each strain produces. Kratom also comes from different locations throughout SouthEast Asia
What are regulatory Agencies saying about Kratom?
Because of the similarities of Kratom and Opioids, there has been much debate among regulatory agencies regarding any regulatory limitations that should be attached to Kratom.
- In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a scientific review of Kratom to determine if it warranted any international control or an additional critical review. In their Dec, 2021 report they voted 11:1 to simply continue monitoring the data on Kratom and its impacts over the next 2-3 years. Members found “insufficient evidence” that Kratom warrants any further control or restriction. This decision, after a full review of the Kratom usage data, has been almost universally taken to mean that Kratom is substantially safer than Opioids.
- At the same time, a group of US congressional lawmakers forwarded a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the UN Ambassador imploring them to resist any efforts to impose national or international restrictions on Kratom. Lawmakers stated that there has been “no conclusive evidence that would warrant the United States voting in favor of any international control of this substance.”
- As well, the US House Appropriations Committee approved a report on Kratom stating that several federal health agencies have “ contributed to the continued understanding of the health impacts of Kratom”. The committee stated additionally that it is “aware of the potentially promising results of kratom for acute and chronic pain patients who seek safer alternatives to sometimes dangerously addictive and potentially dangerous prescription opioids.”
- The FDA has presently no approved uses of Kratom, and have recommended that it not be used. The FDA has been criticized for dragging its feet on these approvals, particularly given the growing need for an opioid replacement that could reduce the number of deaths associated with opioid overdoses.
It seems that one of the main problems with opioids comes from what is referred to as ‘Tolerance’, a highly documented effect associated with its use. This refers to the need to constantly increase the opioid dosage in order to achieve the same results.
- As the brain receives more opiate compounds it creates more opioid receptors and so the user must increase the dosage to satisfy a growing number of receptors. It is not hard to see how this process can eventually lead to over-use.
- As well, the longer the opioid is used, the more receptors are produced making it systematically harder for the user to stop using the opioids and harder to stay off opioids once they have quit.
- Finally, the withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid use can become more severe and unpleasant, the longer opioids have been used. Commonly reported symptoms include pain, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle aches and intense cravings.
There is no evidence that Kratom creates this same condition in the brain, which makes it a much safer alternative to traditionally prescribed or common street versions of opioids.
Is Kratom 1,000 times safer than Opiates?
By most accounts, Kratom appears to be a safer alternative for people looking to replace opioids. A CDC study of 27,000 overdoses in the US occurring between 2016 and 2017 revealed that Kratom was involved in less that 1% of deaths. An estimated 10-16 million people use Kratom which makes Kratom 1,000 times less likely to kill that prescription opioids. Furthermore, in nearly all the deaths that were somehow associated with Kratom, it was almost always accompanied by one of the stronger drugs that are more statistically more likely to be the primary reason for death. As a result, among the millions of people presently using Kratom, there is almost no evidence that Kratom has any potential for creating a fatal overdose.
Additionally, if you consider that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, can be up to 50 times as strong as heroin or morphine, there is no wonder why they are a major contributor to fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the US.
Opioid Withdrawal With Kratom
If you are looking to use Kratom to help alleviate the symptoms of opioid withdrawal or as a replacement for an opioid you are presently using we recommend you start by consulting with your healthcare practitioner. Your health practitioner will know you best and can help with the product selection and dosage recommendations. Whenever you are taking more than one medication, drug or psychoactive compound, the effects and reactions to the drugs can be substantially modified. For example, one of the reported benefits of Kratom is that it helps magnify the effects or benefits of other drugs. But if you are already taking a substantial dose of opioid medication, this may have adverse effects.
There is ample evidence, anecdotal, statistical and scientific, that identifies opiates as a dangerous and addictive substance with a significant reputation for many adverse side-effects including death. The modern synthetic formulations (like fentanyl) can be many times more potent and therefore many times more dangerous than botanical opiates. Kratom users have been extremely vocal in promoting this new and natural supplement as a viable replacement for opiates, that can produce a similar effect in pain relief, energy boost, mood enhancement and cognitive function, without the adverse side-effects, addictive potential and risk of overdose.
For centuries, Kratom has demonstrated that its alkaloids produce pain relieving, mood enhancing, and stress relieving properties similar to those experienced with opioid medications and drugs, according to user reports. The use of opiates carries a variety of potentially high risks both physical and psychological that have been well documented and studied. These risks have been apparent throughout the many thousands of years opiates have been used. Kratom also has a long history of use, but without the adverse side-effects and without the risks of addiction and other associated health concerns.
If you, or someone you love, are considering using opioids, or are facing one of the many health related problems associated with long-term use or addiction, consider talking to your health practitioner about switching to Kratom. Users have reported that Kratom has the potency to replace the benefits of opioids, but without the risks of adverse side-effects or addiction. Your health practitioner will be able to assist you with the schedule and dosage of each substance that will minimize the symptoms of opiate withdrawal at the same time as you transition to your new Kratom supplements.
Clinical Studies for Additional Reading:
Results: “By the early 2000s, kratom was increasingly used in the US as a natural remedy to improve mood and quality of life and as substitutes for prescription and illicit opioids for managing pain and opioid withdrawal by people seeking abstinence from opioids. There has been no documented threat to public health that would appear to warrant emergency scheduling of the products and placement in Schedule I of the CSA carries risks of creating serious public health problems.”
Results: “Our conclusions from these analyses are: User reports and results of preclinical studies in animals strongly suggest that kratom and its main constituent alkaloid, mitragynine may have useful activity in alleviating pain and managing symptoms of opioid withdrawal, even though well-controlled clinical trials have yet to be done.”
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2. “Opioid Addiction: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment Options.” WebMD, www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/opioid-addiction#1.
3. “Opioid Use Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 23 Feb. 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/opioid-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355380.