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Kratom is used by about 1% of the U.S. population who swear by its effects for relaxing and getting energized.
However, 6 states and many countries have banned the herbal substance, so this begs the question:
Is kratom addictive, and is it dangerous?
In this article, we’ll look at what science says about kratom addiction.
What Is Kratom?
Kratom starts as a completely natural phenomenon. Mitragyna speciosa is a tropical evergreen tree that grows potent herbal leaves.
The leaves, which are known in the U.S. as kratom, can be chewed, smoked, or brewed with tea (or other liquids) or put into gel capsules.
Being another member of the Rubiaceae family, kratom is related to the much more worldwide coffee plant - which brings you your favorite cup in the morning.
Mitragyna speciosa is native to Southeast Asia. While many people in the U.S. have only recently discovered kratom, it has actually been cultivated for medicinal purposes since at least 1836 according to some sources .
There are 3 main strains of kratom products, and they are indicated by the type and color of the leaf’s veins.
- White kratom is said to be energizing.
- Red kratom is said to be calming.
- Green kratom is said to be a much milder energy booster with more enhanced mental focus.
There are also kratom strains associated with a local region, not just color. The place where the plant grows, as well as the climate of that area, can directly affect the taste and potency of the kratom leaf.
Anecdotal benefits of taking kratom supplements usually include:
- Chronic pain relief
- Decreased anxiety
- Decreased appetite
- Lower inhibitions
- Heightened libido
- Greater mental focus
With all of these purported benefits and some government warnings of side effects, it looks like kratom does not merely provide a placebo effect.
Is Kratom Addictive?
No doubt many states that have banned kratom are reacting to the warning from the FDA about Mitragyna Speciosa 
"...the FDA is concerned that kratom, which affects the same opioid receptors as morphine, appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of drug addiction, substance abuse, and drug dependence."
Kratom leaves are potent enough to produce stimulant effects in low doses and sedative effects in higher doses.
The FDA has historically taken sides with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), which lists far more specific effects  like:
"psychotic symptoms, and psychological and physiological dependence…"
The FDA and other federal agencies, as well as state authorities, have concluded that kratom is currently not approved for safe consumption and that its proposed beneficial effects still have to be studied.
Recent FDA heads have commented that the agency doesn’t necessarily want to ban kratom but does want to regulate it as far as advertising and companies making unsupported medical claims.
Addiction to Kratom and Kratom Abuse - What Science Says
No one knows if kratom leads to physical dependence until hard scientific data can be produced one way or the other.
Kratom’s possible addictive effects may depend on:
- Volume ingested
- Potency of the leaves
- Frequency of kratom use
- Delivery method
- Other additives
- A person’s unique genetics & medical history
Furthermore, scientific studies still have to prove how much more profound kratom’s effects are compared to caffeine and other substances.
After all, anecdotally, some kratom users claim that the best kratom capsules that are pure and free of additives do not have the "crash" effect that caffeine addiction clearly does cause.
That said, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has said kratom powder abuse may lead to side effects similar to opioid addiction.
Prescription opioid use disorder is also a complicated issue because many legal prescription drugs are highly addictive and dangerous to quit without medically supervised withdrawal therapy.
Effects of Kratom Addiction
Some users have reported unpleasant effects, especially after an overdose or long-term kratom use.
These might include short-term side effects like:
- Increased energy
- Dry mouth
Kratom does produce effects in the user within 10 minutes and for up to five hours. The more quantity is taken, the more powerful the effects. However, no scientific data exists showing the exact level of how much kratom is toxic.
It’s best to stop kratom use if you notice any more effects that would suggest a substance use disorder such as:
- Weight loss
- Changes in urine
- Muscle pain
In rare cases, there may be critical side effects that require immediate medical attention like:
- Breathing problems
In some rare cases, an overdose of kratom has led to seizure and coma.
How Addictive Is Kratom? Withdrawal Symptoms
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms and unpleasant side effects is possible in persons who develop moderate to severe kratom dependence. Moderate withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Hot flashes
- Erratic movements
- Flu-like symptoms
- Changes in personality
Addiction to kratom has been compared to coffee addiction by some, while others have claimed it has opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Besides the DEA’s suggestion of kratom resembling morphine, some have also claimed its withdrawal symptoms are similar to amphetamine withdrawal (like Adderall), which might involve effects like intense cravings, panic attacks, and various mental health problems.
Treatment for Kratom Addiction and Withdrawal
If you or someone you know has a drug abuse problem, a few options are available.
A treatment center could offer supervised medical addiction treatment and a consultation with a doctor.
Kratom detox is necessary in extreme or long-term kratom addiction cases, including performing medical tests, using medication to help with stabilization, and starting an addiction treatment program.
If kratom addiction is relatively mild, unsupervised therapy by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or addictions counselor could provide help.
For more information contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
So, Is Kratom Dangerous?
Everyone seems to agree that kratom is very powerful, even before the natural substance is altered into a supplemental formula.
It’s very important to always consult a medical professional before taking any new supplement (kratom included).
And if you do decide to try kratom, it’s recommended to introduce kratom into your body gradually and in small doses so you can gauge your mood and take note of any concerning changes as they happen.
- Todd, D.A. et al. 2020. "Chemical composition and biological effects of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa): In vitro studies with implications for efficacy and drug interactions." Scientific Reports.
- 2022. "FDA and Kratom." U.S Food and Drug Administration
2020. "Drug Fact Sheet: Kratom." U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.