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Does Kratom Help With Opioid Withdrawal?

Does Kratom Help With Opioid Withdrawal?

Kratom is an herbal supplement used to self-treat opioid withdrawal symptoms. It can lead to side effects in high doses or combined with other substances.

The opioid epidemic is an ever-present problem in the United States and worldwide. There are several medications approved as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD). However, some of these medications also present the risk of dependence or addiction, which may leave a person trading one substance of choice for another. Kratom, an herbal supplement, has become popular as an alternative method of managing opioid withdrawal symptoms. But what is kratom, is it effective for managing opioid withdrawal, and is it safe to use? Before trying kratom for OUD, it is important that you learn more about how it is used, the side effects, and how you can reduce the risk of complications.

For safe, effective medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, you can count on Confidant Health. Our online opioid withdrawal management program guides you safely through the recovery process with FDA-approved OUD medications and support from our team of professionals. Download our app to schedule a convenient online assessment.

What Is Kratom?

Kratom is an herbal supplement derived from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree in Southeast Asia. It is known for its energizing effects at low doses and sedating effects at high doses. Kratom use has increased in recent years as it is believed to help with opioid withdrawal. 

The leaves of the kratom tree are crushed into a powder and then consumed in one of the following forms:

  • Capsule
  • Tablet
  • Extract
  • Tea

Some people chew the leaves or crush the dried leaves and smoke them.Kratom is legal at the federal level and can be purchased online or in brick-and-mortar shops. However, a few states have banned kratom: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Although it has no approved medical purpose, researchers continue to explore the possibilities.

Despite its legality and accessibility in most states, kratom can lead to adverse side effects, so government agencies continue to monitor the latest research to guide their policies on this herbal substance.

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, .44% of adolescents reported having used kratom in their lifetime, with .27% admitting to having used kratom within the previous 12 months. Kratom use correlated with cigarette and cannabis use among adolescents. 

Additional research into adult kratom use showed that 11.1% of adults had used the substance at some point, while 6.7% had used it within the previous year. Researchers noted that kratom use was most prominent among people who were:

  • Caucasian
  • Younger
  • Employed
  • Educated
  • Middle class
  • Misusing opioids or other substances
  • Overcoming substance use disorder

Although kratom may help relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms, fatigue, and stress, it can also lead to various side effects and health problems.

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How Does Kratom Affect the Body?

Kratom has increased in popularity recently, but it has been used in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years. Many people use kratom for its energizing and mood-boosting effects to enhance productivity and sociability. This herbal substance has similar properties to opioids, such as relaxation and pain relief. When taken in low doses, kratom serves as a stimulant. It acts as a central nervous system depressant in higher doses, inducing calm and sedation.

Kratom Compounds and the Brain

The leaves of the kratom or Mitragyna speciosa tree contain chemical compounds. Two of the most researched kratom compounds are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Mitragynine is found in the leaves of the kratom tree, while 7-hydroxymitragynine is created as the body breaks down mitragynine.

These compounds interact with opioid receptors in the brain to induce euphoric feelings, although to a lesser degree than prescription or illicit opioids. Kratom is a partial opioid agonist, only partially activating opioid receptors, while drugs like heroin are full opioid agonists that fully activate these receptors and produce a more intense high with a greater risk of addiction. For this reason, kratom is being studied as a potential medication to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms. 

Uses of Kratom

Although Kratom is not currently approved for medicinal use, it is readily available for purchase over the counter without a prescription. This herbal supplement has been used by consumers for:

  • Alleviating pain
  • Stimulating energy
  • Managing mental health conditions
  • Minimizing opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • Reducing opioid cravings

Since kratom has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is not regulated and cannot be deemed safe for use. Anyone accessing kratom must exercise caution and familiarize themselves with the side effects and potential risks.

Side Effects of Kratom

Although kratom is an herbal supplement and is legally available over the counter, there are side effects to using it: 


Constipation is a common side effect of opioids, and since kratom interacts with the same opioid receptors in the brain, it can have similar effects on the digestive system. The substance depresses the body’s responses, including bowel movements.

Slowed Breathing 

The relaxing effects of kratom can suppress the body's functions in larger doses, which can slow your breathing to dangerously low levels.

Liver Problems 

Although rare, long-term kratom use can lead to liver damage. Signs of acute liver injury include dark urine, itching, fatigue, and nausea. The risk of liver complications increases if using kratom in conjunction with other drugs or substances known to adversely affect liver function.

Cardiovascular Issues

Research has shown that high doses of kratom or using other substances alongside kratom can put people at greater risk for heart issues, such as cardiac arrest, myocardium, myocarditis, tachycardia, and hypertension. 

More research is required to determine the safety and risks of kratom, especially regarding long-term use. 

Is It Safe to Use Kratom for Opioid Withdrawal?

Opioid withdrawal occurs when a person dependent on or addicted to opioids stops taking the drug or abruptly cuts back their dosage. Withdrawal symptoms can range in severity depending on the dosage and length of time you've misused opioids. Some common opioid withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety 

Withdrawal discomfort and cravings are the most common culprits in opioid relapse. Without the proper treatment and support, a person may find it impossible to get through opioid withdrawal, which can last up to two weeks. To address this barrier, providers now offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that aims to alleviate withdrawal discomfort with FDA-approved medications.

Since kratom interacts with opioid receptors like drugs used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT), many people self-treat with this substance to alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms. However, it is not necessarily safe to use kratom for opioid withdrawal, especially if you are not under the care and guidance of a healthcare provider. 

Risks of Using Kratom for Opioid Withdrawal

Kratom has shown some promise in helping people manage withdrawal discomfort and cravings as they work to overcome opioid use disorder. Although there are benefits to using kratom for opioid withdrawal, you should also be aware of the potential risks.

Dependence or Addiction 

Since the compounds in kratom partially activate the same opioid receptors in the brain as opioid drugs like heroin, there is the potential to develop a dependence on this herbal substance. Research has shown that most reports of withdrawal symptoms or addiction to kratom range from mild to moderate

Lack of Product Regulation 

Kratom has not been approved by the FDA for medical use, so all kratom products are available over the counter. They fall under the category of herbal supplements, so there are no strict standards for these products. Without regulations, you cannot guarantee the quality, potency, or consistency of the kratom formulations. When using a medication to help you manage opioid use disorder, you and your provider must carefully monitor your dosage. This would be challenging to do with kratom, as one batch can differ from another. 

Not Enough Information About Long-Term Effects

More research needs to be done to determine how kratom can affect you over the long term. Compared to other medications used for opioid use disorder, kratom is fairly new and there is much more that needs to be studied regarding the overall safety and efficacy of long-term kratom use.

Possibility of Severe Side Effects

At low doses, you may only experience mild side effects such as nausea or drowsiness. However, each person responds differently to substances, and you can experience serious side effects from kratom use, such as organ damage, respiratory depression, and even a fatal overdose.

Until kratom has been approved by the FDA, it is much safer to access medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder from a trusted provider. 

How Addictive Is Kratom?

You can develop an addiction to kratom, particularly if using it in large doses. However, kratom has less potential for addiction than opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone. The herbal compounds partially interact with opioid receptors, resulting in a milder euphoria than other opioids. There is less risk for addiction, and those who become dependent on kratom report only mild to moderate symptoms.

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Kratom FAQs

What are the positive effects of kratom?

Kratom has stimulating effects that help relieve fatigue. It also has euphoric, sedating, and pain-relieving properties similar to opioids, although milder, making it helpful for managing opioid withdrawal.

What drugs interact with kratom?

Kratom can interact with certain substances, leading to harmful side effects. You should avoid taking kratom with alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, opioids, and antidepressants. Combining kratom with these types of drugs, which are also central nervous system depressants, can intensify the sedating effects and slow the body’s functions to dangerously low levels. 

Does kratom affect your liver?

Chronic kratom use may cause acute liver injury, although it is rare. However, this is usually temporary, and the liver may heal after you stop using kratom. 

What receptors does Kratom activate?

Kratom activates opioid receptors in the brain, similar to other opioid drugs, which are responsible for feelings of relaxation and pain relief. Dopamine receptors are also activated by kratom, promoting cognitive function and motivation. Additionally, kratom stimulates adrenergic receptors for an energizing effect and serotonin receptors for a positive mood and sociability.

What organs are affected by kratom?

Long-term kratom use can lead to organ damage. Organs affected by kratom include the heart, liver, kidneys, and colon. 

Can you take kratom with Suboxone?

Kratom should not be taken with Suboxone. Kratom is a partial opioid agonist like the buprenorphine in Suboxone. Combining two partial opioid agonists can amplify the sedating and euphoric effects of both substances. A person could experience a more noticeable high when taking kratom with Suboxone, which defeats the purpose of either drug. The depressant effects of both can also lead to respiratory depression.

Is kratom a narcotic?

According to Merriam-Webster, a narcotic is “a drug (such as opium or morphine) that in moderate doses dulls the senses, relieves pain, and induces profound sleep but in excessive doses causes stupor, coma, or convulsions.” Kratom qualifies as a narcotic since it has pain-relieving and sedating properties and can be harmful in large doses. 

Precautions and Warning Signs When Using Kratom

As an unregulated substance, kratom is easily accessible in amounts large enough to lead to an overdose. Between 2010 and 2015, calls to poison control centers regarding kratom use increased tenfold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of these calls involved cases in which the person suffered severe or life-threatening side effects from kratom.

To prevent fatalities involving this herbal supplement, it is vital to recognize the signs of an overdose, so you know when to contact emergency services. The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms of kratom overdose:

  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Hypertension
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizure

The risk of a kratom overdose increases if you take high doses of kratom or use it in conjunction with other substances. You should practice caution and speak with your provider before using kratom if you currently take medications that depress the central nervous system or increase the toxic load on the liver.

Alternative Treatments and Medications for Opioid Withdrawal

Many people have found kratom to be helpful for managing opioid withdrawal symptoms. However, since this herbal substance has not been FDA-approved to treat OUD, it is safer to access medications under the guidance of a qualified provider. Alternative treatments and medications for opioid withdrawal include:

These medications have been thoroughly researched and approved by the FDA to help people overcome opioid use disorder. You can access these medications through a qualified provider as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). 

MAT combines medication with therapy and support to provide a comprehensive approach to treating opioid use disorder. Until more research is done into the efficacy and long-term effects of kratom for opioid withdrawal, you will find the safest, most effective treatment from a reputable provider who offers MAT with one of the above medications.

Access Safe, Effective Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use at Confidant Health

When you struggle with opioid use disorder, you may be willing to try anything to help you quit. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be severe and make it feel impossible to break free from these powerful drugs. If you're tempted to try kratom for opioid withdrawal, we encourage you to consider our safe, effective medication-assisted treatment for opioid use instead. Confidant Health’s evidence-based opioid withdrawal management programs offer the convenience of treatment from our caring team of professionals in the comfort of your home. Download our app today and schedule an online assessment to determine which of our virtual OUD treatment programs is right for you.

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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