Kratom Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment Resources

Jump to Section icon
    What you will learn
    • Kratom is an herbal medicine made from the leaves of a South Asian tree used as both a stimulant and a relaxant
    • It is not illegal in most of the United States, but has been labeled as a ‘Drug of Concern’ by the D.E.A. 
    • It is possible to get addicted to kratom due to severe physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms
    • There is a risk of significant side effects and overdose with kratom, especially when mixed with other drugs
    • Treatment for kratom addiction follows the same process as other substance use disorders

    What is Kratom? 

    Kratom is an herb derived from the leaves of the mitragyna speciosa, a tropical tree indigenous to South Asia. Due to the presence of an alkaloid compound called mitragynine, kratom has psychotropic, or mind-altering, effects. In low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant, while in high doses, it acts as an opioid.  

    Kratom users can become dependent on the drug, and develop an addiction. For this reason, kratom is considered a ‘Drug of Concern’ by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). However, kratom is legal to purchase and possess. Other names for kratom include thang, kakuam, thom, ketum, and biak. 


    Kratom Quick Reference 

    Drug Category Commercial & Street Names DEA Schedule Administration
    Stimulant Opiate Kratom, hang, kakuam, thom, ketum, and biak ‘Drug of interest’ but not currently classified by schedule
    • Orally (common): in tablet, extract, capsule or tea form
    • Chewed

    How Do People Consume Kratom?

    Kratom is sold in many different formats and strengths. It may be consumed orally as an extract, tablet, or capsule. It may also be dried or powdered and added to a tea. Occasionally, the leaves of the kratom plant are chewed, much like tobacco. 

    Is Kratom Legal in All US States?

    As kratom is considered a “drug of concern” but not a scheduled substance, it is not federally regulated. Regulations vary by state regarding the possession and consumption of kratom. 

    In Tennessee, kratom is legal for possession and use by people ages 21 and older.
    Kratom sales have been regulated more strictly in Tennessee than in other states.

    In New Jersey, kratom is fully legal and can be accessed by people 21 and older. Kratom is widely available in the state due to its legal status and relative cost to other substances on the market. 

    The Effects of Kratom

    The mitragynine alkaloids in kratom have both physical and mental effects. In low doses, kratom provides increased energy and alertness. In higher doses, kratom provides pain relief, relaxation, sedation, and other opiate-like effects. 

    Due to the unregulated nature of kratom, predicting the effect of any dose is difficult. Other variables include the way kratom is taken, a person’s experience with this substance, mixing kratom with other drugs, and any known or unknown medication conditions. People using kratom should be aware of these risks, and practice safe consumption habits with this herb.

    How Does Kratom Affect the Body? 

    People who take kratom report stimulant-like effects including increased energy, focus, alertness, and a rapid heart rate. In higher doses, people say that kratom provides pain relief, relaxation, and other sedative effects similar to opiates. Because of this overlap, kratom is sometimes used to manage symptoms of opiate withdrawal and support Opiate Use Disorder treatments.[1] 

    How Does Kratom Affect the Mind?

    When a person uses kratom, the mitragynine alkaloid contained within its leaves converts to a compound called 7-hydroxymitragynine, which binds to mu-opioid receptors in the body and brain. This causes an experience comparable to a mild dose of opiates such as oxycodone or heroin. 

    The stimulating effect of kratom may also be caused by the interactions between 7-hydroxymitragynine and the adrenergic, serotonin, and dopamine receptors in our bodies. 

    Side Effects of Kratom

    The side effects of kratom range from mild to severe, and are dependent on the size of the dose taken, along with other factors such as the way this herb is consumed.[2] 

    Mild side effects of kratom may include:

    • Dry mouth
    • Euphoria 
    • Increased talkativeness and sociability
    • Nausea 
    • Constipation
    • Dizziness 
    • Drowsiness
    • Increased urination
    • Insomnia
    • Itching
    • Sensitivity to sun


    Serious side effects of kratom may include: 

    • Tremors and seizures
    • Confusions and delirium
    • High blood pressure
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Slow breathing
    • Vomiting 
    • Liver problems
    • Hallucinations
    • Delusion
    • Paranoia
    • Discoloration of cheeks


    If you or someone you know experiences serious side effects of kratom, please consult a medical professional as soon as possible or dial 9-1-1.


    Can Kratom Be Addictive?

    Kratom use can result in dependence and addiction characterized by physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms that make it very difficult to stop using this herb, even when an individual wants to. Research indicates that therapeutic and pharmaceutical interventions[3] for substance use disorder hold promise for kratom addiction treatment.

    Physical Symptoms of Kratom Withdrawal

    Kratom works on the mu-opioid system of the body, similar to opiates such as fentanyl, heroin, and oxycontin. It also causes many of the same physical withdrawal symptoms, including:


    • Myalgia, joint pain, and body aches
    • Tremors and uncontrollable ‘jerkiness’
    • Sensations of ‘crawling skin’ and extreme itchiness
    • Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues
    • Yawning, exhaustion, and loss of concentration
    • Chills and a feverish feeling
    • Runny nose
    • Appetite loss


    Psychological Symptoms of Kratom Withdrawal

    The psychological effects of kratom withdrawal can be a double edge sword. Not only are individuals confronted with psychological withdrawal symptoms, but they may also experience a resurgence of the addiction issues and mental health challenges they were using kratom to manage previously. 

    Some common psychological symptoms of kratom withdrawal include: 

    • Irritability, hostility, and aggression
    • Depression, anxiety, and other emotional changes
    • Restlessness and insomnia  
    • Feeling tense
    • A return of symptoms of psychological disorders previously managed by kratom
    • A resurgence of the psychological symptoms of other substance use disorders managed by kratom

    Substance Use Disorder and Kratom

    In part due to its illicit legal status, kratom isn’t named under the criteria for substance use disorder in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM- 5). However, many behaviors common with kratom dependence and addiction are shared with other substances covered under this criteria. 

    Because kratom is not listed explicitly in the DSM-5, those with kratom-related substance use disorder may find it difficult to get a diagnosis or access to treatment. If you are struggling with any of the following substance use disorder criteria in relation to kratom, please make sure to bring them to your medical professional’s attention:

    • Taking the kratom in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to, or needing larger doses to get the same effect
    • Wanting to cut down or stop using kratom but not managing to
    • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the kratom
    • Cravings and urges to use kratom
    • Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of kratom use, and continuing to use despite these problems
    • Kratom is damaging your social or familial relations but you continue to use it
    • Using kratom again and again, even when it puts you in danger
    • Continuing to use kratom, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by it
    • Development of kratom withdrawal symptoms which are relieved by taking more of it


    Can You Overdose on Kratom?

    Like any drug, it is possible to overdose on kratom. Fortunately, in many of these cases, the overdose can be managed at home or with minimal medical management. But in some cases, especially when mixed with other drugs, a kratom overdose can be serious and may result in death.

    According to a 2016 study, 7.4% of calls to U.S. poison control centers regarding kratom were in relation to life-threatening exposure to health including some residual disability.[4] This is of special concern for people who require larger and larger doses of kratom to achieve the required effect due to substance use disorder. Some signs of a kratom overdose include:

    • Seizures
    • Psychosis, hallucinations, and/or paranoia
    • Dangerously slow breathing
    • Severe vomiting
    • Coma
    • Death


    Seek medical care immediately if you or someone you’re with experiences these overdose signs after consuming kratom.

    Tennessee offers Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists throughout the state who offer overdose awareness training and naloxone distribution.

    Mixing Kratom with Other Drugs Increases the Risk

    Mixing kratom with other drugs increases the risk of serious side effects, overdose, and even death. This includes pharmaceuticals like benzodiazepines, acetaminophen, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and mood stabilizers. Extreme caution should be exercised when drinking alcohol or using other drugs while taking kratom.

    It is not advisable to mix kratom with drugs, especially ketamine, ethanol, narcotics, opiates, and other botanicals like cannabis. Another risk comes from the fact that when a substance is acquired in the black market, it’s impossible to know what it contains or how that might interact with kratom. 

    Kratom for Management of Opiate Withdrawal

    Anecdotal evidence suggests that using kratom may help decrease the withdrawal symptoms associated with recovering from opiate addiction. However, given that kratom also has the potential to become addictive, management of opiate withdrawal is better suited to proven medical interventions. 

    As of the time of publication, kratom hasn’t been proven safe or effective in the treatment of opiate withdrawal or any other diagnosis in the United States.[5] In South East Asia, kratom has been employed as part of a traditional medicine approach to addiction treatment. Due to the escalating opiate overdose epidemic, many medical and research groups are currently advocating for further study into kratom’s viability and risk management in opiate substance use disorder. 


    Kratom Addiction Treatment 

    Treatment for kratom addiction follows the same strategy as treatment for other substance use disorders — a detox from the substance, therapeutic treatments, and then long-term lifestyle management.

    Detox from kratom may involve inpatient treatment under the supervision of a medical team, or may be supervised by your family doctor at home. Withdrawal symptoms will be managed through tapering, medications, and other interventions. Withdrawal symptoms begin 12 – 14 hours after stopping the substance and may persist for 3-7 days. 

    Therapeutic treatments may take place during detox from kratom, or after the withdrawal process has been completed. This will depend on both the individual seeking treatment and the treatment modalities used by their team of substance abuse specialists. 

    Inpatient programs are one option for kratom treatment, and will feature a therapeutic environment complete with support groups, emotional management and addiction skills training, individual counseling and recreational activities. Other options for the treatment of kratom include day programs, support groups, or individual appointments with a therapist. The best option is as unique as the individual being treated. 

    In the long term, abstinence from a substance following substance use disorder involves making lasting lifestyle changes [6]. This includes diet and nutrition improvements, individualized physical activity plans, sleep hygiene, healthy coping strategies for stress, strong social relationships, and quitting smoking. It should also include support to manage the root cause of kratom use, and addressing any psychological or physical challenges behind that use. 

    Recovery from kratom addiction is possible. Talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist to learn about your options.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is Kratom Legal In the United States?
    Is Kratom Illegal Outside of the United States?
    Is It Safe to Use Kratom During Pregnancy?

    Are you or a loved one struggling with Kratom use?

    Wreath Image Logo - Epiphany Wellness Centers

    Schedule a Free and Confidential Consultation with Epiphany Wellness

    Have questions? Reach out.
    Phone Logo - Epiphany Wellness Centers 609-710-9423 Email Logo - Epiphany Wellness Centers