Kratom, an herbal supplement, available in many smoke shops, head shops, as well as online, has been making a recent popularity surge. Since about 2004 in the United States it has starting become more well known, but has been an issue for several years elsewhere. In 2001, Thailand said it was the second most abused substance in the country.
Here at Recovery Works NW we have seen an uptake as well in people coming in who’s primary “drug of choice,” is Kratom.
So what is Kratom, what’s the dangers and what problems it can cause.
First off Kratom isn’t an Opioid. It does however attach and bind to the Mu-Opioid receptor, which allows it to mimic the effects produced by opioids, including the sedating and pain relieving effects. In fact it’s marketed as a treatment for opiate addiction. The fact that Kratom binds to the same receptors and acts like an opioid, you can well imagine that the side effects and withdrawals are similar. From personal experience I can tell you that watching someone detox, or “kick” Kratom is as awful as watching someone kick heroin. The withdrawals are as bad or worse. People develop a tolerance to Kratom just like they do with pain pills or heroin and very quickly find themselves needing more to stay “well.”
The reason for it’s rise in popularity is the same reason for the rise of any fad medication or cure. People want an easy, pain free solution to their problems. Especially people with addiction issues, who (from personal experience) want to find a way to continue to get the same effects of their drug use without having the consequences. That doesn’t happen. Addiction doesn’t have a cure or an easy fix. Recovery from addiction takes work and no magic pill is going to solve a persons problem. Herbal supplements and remedies like Kratom tend to make the problem worse rather then better.
So why do people get drawn to this “miracle cure.” Lack of education is a big reason. They simply don’t know. It’s not like the guy at the smoke shop is going to tell you, “Hey just so you know, despite what you’ve heard this stuff is gonna get you strung out. You’d be better off not trying it at all.” Herbal supplements with their new and interesting ways to get high in a legal way is big business. The herbal supplement market makes billions and they didn’t get those billions by being honest. I get a number of people in my office suffering withdrawals who last used Kratom. All of them are shocked when told the truth. “I didn’t know,” is their answer. And it’s an honest one. No one told them. There’s not a lot of money to be made in being honest in the field of supplements and synthetic drugs.
In the late 1800’s “patent medicines,” were all the rage. Laudanum was a prime example. Sold as a cure all for everything, Laudanum’s main ingredient was opium. It was the perfect marketing tool. After a few bottles and people would be running back for more. And to be sure it helped with a lot of issues like diarrhea and pain. Opioids have been used for that for years, in regulated and prescribed doses. However, giving people free reign to buy whatever, whenever, from wherever, turned early America into a bit of a drug seekers paradise. The companies making these products where under no obligation to divulge what was in there medicines. In 1906 the “Pure Food and Drug Act,” required the labeling off all patent medicines to describe exactly what was in them. Shortly after Coca Cola stopped using unprocessed Cocoa leaves. Yes it’s true Coca Cola had actual cocaine. Not an urban myth.
Since that time companies have found new sneaky ways to get around the whole labeling thing and continue to market to the world. “Not FDA approved,” is a popular one. You can claim your miracle pill does just about anything as long as you add the tag line about not being evaluated by the FDA. Heck many of them claim tons of “clinical trials.” They won’t divulge where or by who and most times aren’t required to.
Another big seller for drugs like Kratom is telling people it’s been used for years by medicine men, shaman, traditional healers, from some “primitive culture,” as a cure for centuries. I mean those people are as pure as can be. Living off he land with an intuitive understanding of mother earth and all her untapped miracles, it couldn’t possibly hurt you, right? WRONG! Synthetic drugs and herbal supplements designed to do the same things as their illegal counterparts are just as dangerous, if not more so in some cases. We have a saying in Oregon, “If it has webbed feet, a bill, feathers, quacks, and is guaranteed to break your heart every year at some point….it’s a Duck!”
The treatment for opiate addiction isn’t going to be found in a smoke shop, the vitamin section at your grocery store, or online from a new age practitioner. The treatment for opiate addiction, specifically, often requires prescription medication like Suboxone and it’s alternatives, along with therapy to bring it under control and return the person to a level of functioning like what they were at prior to getting involved in active addiction.
Some day medical advances may find a “cure.” A magic pill that will fix addiction. Currently though that doesn’t exist no matter how badly we may want it to. Here at Recovery Works NW we have the staff and the experience to be able to treat Opiate Dependence, and help people get their lives back. Feel free to give us a call and schedule an appointment and assessment with the team.
If you have a person in your life struggling with opiate and other addiction issues, we encourage you to make sure they know the facts about the so called “natural remedies,” and help them get help if they’re ready.