One of the most fascinating aspects of plants (for me) is the fact that so many of them contain compounds that have a pretty profound effect on the human body. We all know of opium, coca and cannabis, three very different amazing natural remedies all originating within plants. When you consider facts like this, one can’t help but consider the fact that the war on “drugs” is inherently a war on plants and the peoples right to consume them.
That being said, I don’t consider these compounds perfect even if they are naturally derived and I actually avoid many of them for the effects they have on my body as I understand they can be a double edged sword. While these can all be considered medicine in some form or dose, they aren’t always the best for every day or long term use.
Kratom is the hot drug in the scene nowadays it seems, and surprise surprise it’s a naturally derived medicine. My issue with kratom is not so much in what it is and whether or not its useful medically speaking; it’s about how it’s being pushed. It seems like many are promoting and selling the drug, touting it to be as safe as cannabis when in reality it isn’t.
I’m not saying kratom is bad or harmful inherently, but I am saying that it isn’t as harmless as people seem to be saying it is. The more I look into it, the more I find that Kratom (like many powerful medicines) does have a dark side and people need to know about it. Let me explain.
I heard about Kratom first five years ago through one of my first actual libertarian friends. He brought over a smoothie with a small dose mixed in and we tried it. He touted it’s effects including the fact that heroin addicts use it to deal with withdrawal symptoms. Considering the effects were similar to opiates, I could see why.
I really didn’t look or think much further into it until recently, partially because I don’t really enjoy the way opiates and opiate analogs make me feel. The way he pitched it though, it seemed like another alternative to weed that was significantly cheaper and might actually be more effective for my chronic pain. With a track record like that, I was interested.
I didn’t really encounter it again for a long time for many reasons, including budget. As I become more immersed within this libertarian anarchist community I notice that kratom has penetrated deep and is being pushed, hard, without much information about what it actually is.
I didn’t realize quite the extent of it until the conference, where there was LOADS of kratom being passed around like a party drug. Whenever I interacted with people with it, many had said that they were new to it and knew nothing about it. They weren’t even clear on dosage, something pretty important with kratom as you can overdose.
What is Kratom?
I’ll back it up here to give a bit of background, the same background information I just found through a few google searches. Kratom comes from a tree native to South East Asia. The compound that makes it what it is, is contained within the leaves.
From my understanding they’re generally dried and ground for sale, although locals do chew on the leaves raw for certain effects. Sometimes extracts are made from the leaves but every time I’ve seen it, it’s been a powder. There are several different varieties and all have slightly different effects, just like weed does, another one of the few similarities.
The similarities between Kratom and weed are a bit overestimated in my opinion. While they’re both plant derived and fairly straight forward in terms of processing, they are not by any means similar drugs chemically speaking. Kratom is known as both an opiate substitute and a stimulant. It’s used for a long list of things from depression to chronic pain depending on strain and your needs. It has been touted as a drug to get people off of opiates, but scientifically speaking it seems like it only replaces opiates with something that has similar effects but is much harder to see on a drug screen.
(Editors note, I disagree with this last comment, but will let the writer’s words stand with my protest noted! We sell kratom at our bookstore and I have seen opiate addicts get their lives back and live pain free without the physical addiction and without the life deprivation opiates gave them. I also know many people who use kratom alongside essential oils, yoga, body work and other healing remedies to work on the root of their chronic pain without addiction.)
Kratom works because it acts on the opiate receptors on the brain. That’s not to say it is an opiate itself, but more like an analog. Something pretty damn close that hits the same receptors in nearly the same way. And it does, as it’s known for it’s opiate like effects, like pain relief.
I don’t have a problem with any of this, but considering the fact that it does effect those opiate receptors in a similar way, by going from heroin to kratom your body can’t really tell the difference as far as it’s physical addictions are concerned. The bodily effects of the drug can be different, but you’re still physically addicted in the same way if the drug is affecting the receptors in nearly the same way. (Editor’s note 2: Often kratom is used to help relieve the symptoms of detoxing an opiate, not to just replace it entirely, especially if the opiate addiction came from a short term injury)
The withdrawal symptoms from kratom are nearly identical to heroin withdrawal: nausea, vomiting, extreme depression among many others. I’ve been paying attention to discussion online and I see people all over saying comments like “I need my kratom every morning, it’s my fix” and things to that extent. This concerns me, to say the least.
And for me, that’s about where my interest ends with this one sadly. As someone who grew up with a Mother addicted to opiates, anything that leaves me with a physical addiction just isn’t worth it regardless of the effects. (Editor’s 3rd note, my mom is currently addicted to opiate pain killers for a very real injury! I would love to see her transition to kratom!)
But I want to be clear here for anyone concerned with having used Kratom here and there for things, I’m not saying that any kratom use will result in addiction, just like you can consume opiates (and coffee) without being addicted. But if you are using kratom to treat symptoms of something you suffer with every day, be it mental or physical, you’re most likely physically addicted.
I avoid opiates and now kratom because I suffer from chronic pain and because of that I’d be mentally encouraged to use it a lot, especially if it really does help. For someone with chronic pain, opiates and things similarly addictive are honestly not a good option long term, for obvious reasons. I’m not interested in being physically dependent on something, especially for something like pain that can be dealt with better ways. Cannabis is perfect for these people, as it helps to relieve the symptoms without being physically addictive, a distinct advantage that is very important to me.
While it’s perfectly plausible and common for people to use kratom while not abusing it or being dependent on it, I notice a growing number of people who are dependent on it and many do not quite seem to realize that they are. They have the money to and just use it every day because it makes them feel amazing, and from my understanding it does. They’ll make comments about how much kratom helps and how much they need it, but many don’t seem to make the connection that it’s just as addictive as heroin, in many regards. If they were to stop their daily habitual use, they would be dealing with withdrawal symptoms just like heroin withdrawal. When I talked to people about it at the conference, many didn’t even understand that it could be addictive at all, which I find alarming.
If you’re going to advertise something as safe and harmless, as kratom was during the public scare over it being made illegal, then it better actually be. The fact that it is addictive by nature makes it so it’s not actually harmless, at least not in my opinion. If you’ve got to keep using it to keep from feeling sick or unwell, I don’t consider it harmless. If you get violently ill when you stop using it, that is by definition not harmless. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it’s not perfect and it shouldn’t be advertised as the perfect miracle drug that it is currently. (Editor here again, reminder, some people just take it to study or clean their house and never get addicted… like coffee)
It was nearly a joke when I got arrested among the girls I was in jail with that if anyone would have withdrawal symptoms from weed use, it’d be me. As they studied me and my behavior, they determined that I exhibited no symptoms of withdrawal. Being that many of them were addicts, they knew the signs and they couldn’t find any of them in me.
I say this to prove a point that even with my constant cannabis use, I am not physically addicted. I stopped suddenly when arrested and was off of cannabis for weeks without any huge issues. I like that I can run out of cannabis and the worst thing I’ve got to deal with is an increased level of pain due to being out of weed.
For this reason, Kratom is not just like weed. It’s not harmless and it’s not super safe. While I say all of these things I want to be clear that kratom is not BAD. While not everyone enjoys the effects of kratom, it is a drug that really does help many people when used responsibly with an understanding and respect for it’s capabilities. Just like opium can be as well.
Even with my personal distaste for opiates, I’ve got a respect for them. I have opium seeds I intend on growing for the opium, although it’s something I’ll keep in my medicine cabinet for injuries and emergencies. These things are not bad because they aren’t harmless, they just need to be used with more care to keep from because they can be harmful under the wrong conditions.
Just be Wise!
So, no, I’m not warning people against kratom. I don’t think it’s bad, but I don’t think it should be advertised in the manner it is. Like many plant medicines, it’s serious stuff. I believe that many of these plants that you can become addicted to are that way for a reason, almost as a way to punish over grazers. These things are great tools to be used in specific situations and can even be used recreationally as long as they are responsibly so.
But the fact that most of the people I encountered that were consuming and buying quantities of stuff were doing so pretty damn blind. As a content creator, while I understand people should do their own research, I also get that by advertising anything I should do what I can to give the MOST accurate information I can to the people who follow me.
So if you’re someone talking about kratom publicly, even just your own use, be open about it’s dark side. You might lose a would be customer here and there, but you customer base will remain happier and healthier if they’re fully informed on everything they can be.
I see a bit of a movement of unwitting people interested in plant medicine dipping their toes in with kratom and having a rough time. This happens in many regards, from an overdose to an addiction they didn’t understand they could end up with. For many, even though kratom isn’t the same as other plant medicines, it will put a sour taste in their mouth for these medications. The idea is to educate and inform people about the wonders and challenges of these things, not just to sell them and spread them around.
From my understanding it’s really easy to overdose on Kratom, causing some pretty unpleasant symptoms. Some deaths have been recorded that are related to kratom, but they’re almost always in a cocktail of other drugs and special circumstances (just like marijuana “deaths”). I’m not saying it kills people when they overdose, but from my understanding the overdose symptoms can be pretty unpleasant at the very least.
So long as we educate our customers, we can reduce the liklihood of these negative experiences be they short term or long term. Informing people that overdoing it can cause x number of effects will allow people to pay more mind to dosage. Just a bit too much and you can have a pretty intense physical experience, not necessarily pleasant either.
Again, I want to remind people I’m not anti-kratom. I’ve noticed I’ve gotten pretty emotional responses from people when raising my concerns for these things. Many assume right off the bat that I am against these things, so I want to be clear that I am not. I don’t think any drug should be illegal, certainly not this one too.
I’m happy it was saved from being rescheduled but I do have concerns with the way it’s seemingly pushed to the laymen. I understand that telling people these points will deter them from purchasing or trying the product, but at the end of the day this shouldn’t be just about selling the product. If the goal is to share a medicine with the world, inform that world about the good AND the bad effects so people can make the right decision for them.
Do Your Own Research!
If you’re interested in kratom but don’t know much about it, look into it. I only shared the basics and my opinions on the topic in this article and I am by no means an expert. This is how I see things based off of my research and life experiences. If you disagree with me, provide some proof and prove me wrong, I welcome it.
My goal is not to drop community support of kratom, but to realign it in a more reality based fashion so we can make informed decisions on how and when to use it. As the content creators, it’s our job to provide accurate information to the people out there looking for it. I see this being potentially damaging, so I’m doing what I can to raise a bit of awareness.
Kratom is great! But it’s not perfect! It has flaws! Look into them and just be informed in your decisions, that’s the point of this one here. This is one I’ve found myself thinking about and talking about recently, so I figured it was time to put my take out there and maybe share some good information with someone who didn’t know it. Maybe you can share some information that I don’t know about this topic, I’d be glad to hear it.
I’m all for plant medicine but I’m also for pointing out doubled edged swords where they exist. Sometimes good tools cause damage when used improperly, this is the same for medicine and hammers. So approach with caution, logic and reason and you’ll be fine.
Thanks for reading and considering these thoughts, this is an important topic to me for many reasons. As someone that could really benefit from kratom, I’d like to be the objector to remind people that it’s not a perfect miracle drug, it’s a useful tool that needs to be used correctly.