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Kratom, What Is It and Is It Dangerous?

The drug commonly known in the West as KRATOM is far from new. From the leaves of an evergreen tree native to Thailand, mitragyna speciosa, it has long been known and used in Southeast Asia and Africa. But it has only recently come on the scene in the US and Europe but. Commonly, the leaves are chewed or powdered and then taken in liquid or capsules. They can also be smoked or eaten in food.

In the U.S., kratom remains unscheduled in many states, is banned in six states and restricting legislation is now pending in four other states. But on a national level, kratom is currently in the process of becoming a schedule one drug on the books of the US DEA, which would make it officially illegal for any use in any state.

There are a number of alkaloids In kratom. Alkaloids are naturally occurring compounds that have pronounced physiological effects on humans and animals. Examples of alkaloids are morphine, cocaine, atropine, quinine, nicotine, and caffeine. Mitrogynine and 7-hydroxymitrogynine are thought to be the psychoactives of the alkaloids in kratom. They create profound effects in humans by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain. Stimulation of these receptors is thought to produce sensations that are pleasurable. The same receptors are responsible for effects of other opioid drugs, effects that include pain relief and addiction.

According to the DEA, the drug is often sold under other names such as:

Mitragyna Speciosa is most commonly used in Asia as a stimulant. With low doses of the leaves users report a mild stimulant effect. Workers use it this way in order to work several jobs every day and to keep brutal hours.

With higher doses of the drug, effects are more like those of opioid substances that can be helpful in pain management and as anti-diarrheal drugs. Kratom has also been studied as a method to aid addicts in overcoming addiction to drugs such as heroin and morphine. Although drug substitution is known to be less than effective in actually overcoming addictions, some reports have shown that during tapering-off periods, kratom has helped addicts with the pain and anxiety of their initial withdrawal.

The effects of kratom are dose dependent and can act as either a stimulant or a depressant with low or higher doses respectively. With higher doses, nausea and sweating are common as well as vomiting and extreme itching.

In very high doses, overdoses, reports of delusions and paranoia, extreme nausea and vomiting, shaking and respiratory depression are not uncommon.

As with any addictive drug, sudden cessation of kratom use results in withdrawal symptoms. During withdrawal from kratom an addicted person experiences symptoms such as: muscle aches and pains, insomnia, hostility and aggression, muscle spasms and jerks and runny nose. As with all opiate or opioid-like drugs, the risk of addiction is high and overdose is a very real possibility.

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