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If you follow health news closely, you must have heard about Kratom, a supplement that’s supposedly used to treat opioid withdrawal among other health benefits. So, what is Kratom? Kratom is a tree native to Southeast Asia whose leaves can be chewed or dried to form a powder. Apart from the pill form, some people smoke the leaves or brew the dried leaves as tea. The extract from the leaves, which is in liquid form, can also be used to treat a variety of health issues. The purported health benefits of Kratom are controversial with no sufficient scientific evidence to back the claims. Yet, the drug has been gaining popularity in recent years for what its capable of doing to our bodies.

Is Kratom Legal?

Kratom use is not legal in countries like Malaysia, Australia, and Thailand. Here in the U.S., Kratom has been legalized and is used as alternative medicine. You can find the drug in vitamin stores or stores that sell supplements and alternative medicine.

Is Kratom Safe and Effective?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved the use of Kratom for any medical reasons. This means that the FDA doesn’t monitor the herbal drug for purity or dosage. Kratom is a strong drug that if used without a prescription, could cause adverse side effects, and even death. Experts also claim that long-term use can lead to Kratom addiction. Its effectiveness is still subject to more research and proof.

Health Benefits of Kratom

Note that these are purported health benefits of Kratom with little scientific evidence. Its use is, therefore, not controlled or monitored. In other words, the interactions of taking Kratom leaves can either yield positive or negative results.

Pain Reliever

Kratom leaves are said to have opioid- or morphine-like qualities. In fact, its use dates back to the 1800s where it was used as an alternative to morphine dependence in Thailand. The leaves are rich in analgesic properties that can quickly relieve pain throughout the body. Chewing the leaves triggers the increase of serotonin and dopamine hormones, further alleviating the pain.

The compounds in Kratom bind to pain receptors in the brain, blocking the severity of pain and promoting a calming effect.

Energy Booster

There are claims that traditionally, laborers in Southeast Asia chewed Kratom leaves or brewed Kratom tea and used it as a psychostimulant. This temporarily increased alertness and concentration which meant more productivity during long working hours. Kratom increases the level of oxygenated blood to areas of the body that need it most and optimizes metabolic processes to provide a burst of energy to the user.

Improves Sexual Drive and Reduces Anxiety

Kratom has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac. Since it increases blood flow and acts as an energy booster, it improves sexual drive according to some studies. For people who suffer from chronic anxiety, depression and mood swings, Kratom is said to act as anxiolytic substances. It works by regulating hormones in the body to reduce the chemical imbalance. Other benefits of Kratom use:

  • Cough
  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Hypertension
  • Opiate withdrawal

Side Effects of Kratom

Kratom use has varying side effects on people depending on the dosage. When ingested, the herbal drug takes around 10 minutes to work and lasts for about 90 minutes. When taken in small doses, reports indicate that it improves alertness and sociability. On the other hand, high doses have the opposite effect and leave one feeling heavy and slow. Long-term use has negative effects and could possibly be life-threatening.:

  1. Constipation: If used over a long period, Kratom can interfere with the normal functioning of the digestive and bowel system. This could lead to uncomfortable bowel movements that are difficult to pass. In rare circumstances, this could rupture the colon or cause other colon issues.
  2. Loss of Appetite: Prolonged Kratom use can lead to severe eating disorders and weight loss. Severe weight loss has negative impacts on the body and could even lead to death due to starvation.
  3. Liver and Kidney Damage: Frequent Kratom use in high doses can cause significant damage to the liver and kidney. If you notice dark urine or yellowing of the skin, then it’s a sign that there is some damage taking place in your internal organs. Liver damage puts a lot of work on the kidney and this could lead to kidney failure.

Other side effects of taking Kratom leaves include:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Seizure, coma, and even death
  • Muscle pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia

Conclusion

Kratom addiction is possible, and when it sets in, a person cannot control the use of the drug. Instead, a person resorts to taking even larger amounts of Kratom for longer periods. This could lead to devastating side effects that could be impossible to recover from. Luckily, addiction to Kratom can be treated like addiction to other drugs, which involves detox and behavioral therapy. Since the drug isn’t regulated and research is insufficient, there is still much to learn about Kratom. If you’re using the drug or plan on using it, it’s advisable to weigh your options first before embarking on a journey that you might not recover from.

All images by Pixabay

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