Kratom Addiction and Treatment: The Legal Herb that Can Lead to Dependence

Springboard Recovery provides effective treatment for substance use & mental health disorders.

Evan Leonard MS, MMS, PA-C

Dr. Leonard is a Doctor of Medical Science and a clinical anatomist. He has practiced in both internal and emergency medicine and has published several, peer-reviewed articles and a medical book chapter.

Kratom addiction is a substance abuse problem that tends to “fly under the radar” because it is unconventional. This drug is typically not purchased on the street, and it is not available by prescription. Users call it a supplement, but because it can be addictive, people need to be aware of its effects.
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Our outpatient drug treatment program allows you to keep work and family commitments while focusing on your sobriety.


Many people who get addicted to Kratom will need to seek out professional help through drug treatment. People often go through withdrawal when stopping the use of this substance. They need rehab to help address the underlying issues behind their addiction.

Recovery from kratom addiction is possible, even though it might seem challenging. But getting the right support can make a big difference and help people make the necessary changes to get clean. We want to discuss the effects of kratom, its addictive nature and what people need to do to recover.

What is Kratom?

Kratom is obtained from a tropical tree that is native to Southeast Asia. The tree’s leaves have compounds that can cause psychotropic or mind-altering effects on people when they consume them. This substance is legal in the United States and it can easily be ordered online, found at smoke shops, or even purchased at some gas stations.

Kratom is usually sold as a powder, though there are other products as well. Some companies will sell kratom extracts, pills or include the drug as an ingredient in gum or other goods. Most people will add it to drinks or swallow it in capsules.

Kratom may be sold in packages that are labeled “not for human consumption.” Some of the names it may be found under include:

  • Ketum
  • Ithang
  • Biak
  • Kakuam
  • Thom

People use kratom to treat many mental and physical health conditions. Users claim that it can be used to treat pain, anxiety and depression. There are even some proponents of using it as a way to treat drug and alcohol addiction.

Some of the additional reasons people may take kratom include:

  • To give them a boost in energy.
  • To enhance their mood.
  • To lessen the severity of panic attacks.
  • To help them relax.
  • For the drug’s euphoric effects.

Is Kratom an Opioid Drug?

An opioid drug is defined as any drug that attaches to and interacts with the body’s opioid receptors. When we think of these substances, we tend to think of heroin or prescription painkillers like Oxycodone and Vicodin. But the reality is that kratom acts the same way in the body.

According to a statement from former FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, MD, “Further, as the scientific data and adverse event reports have clearly revealed, compounds in kratom make it so it isn’t just a plant – it’s an opioid. And it’s an opioid that’s associated with novel risks because of the variability in how it’s being formulated, sold and used recreationally and by those who are seeking to self-medicate for pain or who use kratom to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms.”

Kratom has not been officially classified as an opioid drug, and as we mentioned earlier, it remains legal in the United States.

The Kratom High

The kratom high is different based on how much of the drug a person uses. For example, a person who uses a small dose of it will experience its energetic effects. They will feel more mentally alert because of its stimulant effects. But someone who takes a larger dose will likely feel a more relaxed sensation of euphoria.

People who use kratom typically need to increase how much of it they take at one time to get the same effects. This is called forming a tolerance, and it can happen very quickly with this particular drug. In fact, people often find that the same dose does not work for them for very long.

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The Effects of Kratom on the Mind and Body

Taking a substance like kratom is likely to have significant effects on the mind and body. Even though technically, this drug is classified as a supplement, it does have side effects. Some of the side effects of kratom in low doses include:

  • Increased alertness
  • More physical energy
  • Talkativeness
  • Becoming more sociable with others
  • A general feeling of well-being

In higher doses, as we mentioned before, kratom acts more like a central nervous system depressant. People report feeling:

  • Reduced levels of anxiety and stress
  • Less fatigue
  • Pain relief
  • Increased ability to focus and concentrate
  • A sense of euphoria that is similar to opioids

When people have only been using kratom for a short time, they may experience some of the following short-term effects:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased sociability
  • Constipation

The longer a person uses kratom, the more serious its effects become. Most people find that they experience the following with long-term use:

  • Severe constipation
  • The risk of painful defecation or even bowel obstruction
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss or even anorexia
  • Insomnia
  • Hyperpigmentation of the cheeks
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Itchiness all over the body

The Difference Between Kratom Abuse, Dependence and Addiction

It is important for people to understand that the words, abuse, dependence and addiction are not interchangeable. They do not mean the same thing, and there is a progression to addiction that first begins with abuse.

When a person first starts using kratom, they are abusing this drug. This is the case even if they are only using it one time simply because it is known to be very addictive. Continued abuse will lead to dependence. This means that the person’s physical body is dependent upon it. They may experience changing tolerance levels, leading them to use more of the substance to get the same effects.

But once an addiction to kratom forms, the individual will not be able to stop using the drug. This is the case even if there are negative consequences for continued use. It is possible for people to be both addicted and dependent upon a drug at the same time.

If a person is already addicted to opioid drugs, they may quickly get addicted to kratom after just a few uses. But it can also happen fast if a person has not been using these substances; in as little as a few weeks’ time. Some of the signs that a person could be addicted to kratom include:

  • Sensitivity to sunburn
  • Excessive itching
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation

Some additional signs of addiction can include:

  • Continuing to use a drug even if it is causing serious physical or mental health issues.
  • Becoming obsessed with a drug with regard to obtaining it, using it and having stashes on-hand.
  • Taking dangerous risks in order to get more of the drug or use it.
  • Using a drug as a way to cope with one’s problems.
  • Going through withdrawal when the drug is no longer in one’s system.
  • Appearing more disheveled and tired.
  • Giving up important activities in order to have more time to use.

Kratom Addiction Recovery is Possible

Once an addiction to kratom has formed, it can easily take over a person’s entire life. But the good news is that it is possible to recover. We highly recommend for people to go through professional treatment to accomplish their goal of getting clean.

The detoxification process is important for people who are addicted to kratom. Because this drug acts like an opioid in the body, it has a lot of the same types of withdrawal symptoms when people stop using it.

The symptoms of kratom withdrawal include:

  • Pain in the muscles and bones.
  • Pain from stomach cramps.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Intense cravings for kratom.
  • Symptoms of anxiety.
  • Symptoms of depression.

Drug detox can help people by addressing these and any other withdrawal symptoms they might experience. Most doctors recommend a combination of medical and holistic detox to treat kratom withdrawal. There have been studies done on the use of buprenorphine-naloxone to treat these symptoms, but medication assisted treatment (MAT) is currently only FDA approved to treat opioid addiction. It will be interesting to see how that changes in the future.

The detoxification process for kratom usually lasts about 7-10 days, but there are some factors that can affect this timeframe. A person who has other addictions or who has used other opioid drugs might need longer to get through detox.

After detoxing, drug rehab is the next step a person should take. It can be tempting to skip this step simply because people are no longer experiencing the strong cravings and other withdrawal symptoms they did in the beginning. But it is critical to address the underlying cause of the addiction, which is why people go to drug rehab.

People begin using kratom for many reasons. Sometimes it becomes a drug that helps them stop the use of other drugs, which means the addiction is just transferred. But there are those who rely upon it to treat depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. These individuals have co-occurring disorders, which need to be treated for recovery to be successful.

Co-occurring disorders require dual diagnosis treatment. This simply means that both the addiction and the mental health condition receive treatment at the same time. With the primary reason for the person’s substance abuse addressed, there is a much better chance that they will remain in recovery long-term.

Our outpatient drug treatment program allows you to keep work and family commitments while focusing on your sobriety.

SpringBoard Recovery Offers Treatment for Kratom Addiction

At SpringBoard Recovery, we have worked with many people who were addicted to kratom. We know how innocent this drug seems and how it can appear to be a life-saver for people in serious pain, who have mental health issues, or who used it to get off other, harder drugs. But it can be highly addictive in its own right, which is why treatment is so highly recommended.

When clients come to us for treatment, we always assess them and determine if they need to go through detox. A person who is addicted to kratom will receive a referral for detox services. We only refer to facilities that we know and trust. Once they have detoxed, they can return to our program for additional help.

Our outpatient drug treatment program has been designed to personally address the needs of each client we work with. Many of our clients begin with our intensive outpatient program, or IOP. This gives them a higher level of care, but it is also flexible so they can continue to go to work or school during the day.

We also provide sober living services for those who need them. Many people do not have safe or healthy lives at home. They may be living in abusive situations or with others who also use drugs. These circumstances can make it difficult – if not impossible – for people to stop using. Our sober living home is also available for people who live in other states who may want to travel for rehab.

Learn More About Kratom Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Today

Recovering from kratom addiction can be difficult, but it is not impossible, by any means. Attempting to quit on one’s own can be hard and many people are not successful with that method. It is far too easy for them to just go back to using to relieve their withdrawal symptoms. But professional treatment can set people up for success.

Have you been abusing kratom? Have you grown dependent upon it or addicted to it? If so, you are not alone. So many people have found themselves in the same situation, and for them, going through detox and rehab was a life-changing experience. The same can be true for you. All you need to do is take that first step and ask for help.

Would you like to know more about kratom addiction? Do you have questions about our addiction treatment program? Please contact us today.