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How to Quit Kratom

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Michael Kaliszewski, PhD
Michael Kaliszewski, PhD
Dr. Michael Kaliszewski is a freelance science writer with over 15 years of experience as a research scientist in both academia and industry.

What is Kratom?

Kratom is an herbal extract derived from the leaves of a tropical evergreen tree (Mitragyna speciosa) native to Southeast Asia. It has a long history of use in traditional medicines due to the range of sedative and stimulant-like effects associated with its use. The biologically active chemicals in kratom interact with opioid receptors in humans to produce sedation, pleasure, and decreased pain. Kratom also interacts with adrenergic receptors to produce stimulant effects.1 Effects occur within 5-10 minutes after ingestion and can last for 2-5 hours.2

At low doses kratom can act like a stimulant, giving users increased energy, sociability, and alertness. At higher doses kratom reduces pain and provides feelings of euphoria, while at very high doses it can act as a sedative and make users drowsy.3

Although traditionally used to combat fatigue and improve work productivity among farm populations in Southeast Asia, during the last two decades kratom has gained popularity as a recreational drug in the United States and Europe.4 Kratom is not currently an illegal substance in the United States and is widely available for purchase on the internet where it is marketed as a dietary or herbal supplement.3

Side Effects of Kratom

There are a range of side effects associated with the use of Kratom. The most common minor side effects include nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Reported health effects of Kratom are dose-dependent, and can also include:5

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Increased urination
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin darkening
  • Liver damage
  • Muscle pain
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Decreased breathing
  • Hallucinations, delusion, and confusion
  • Seizure
  • Coma

Polydrug use is common among kratom users, including those with opioid use disorder. This is very problematic, as kratom can cause herb-drug interactions, especially with other substances that act on the central nervous system. Several reports describe liver damage and even death resulting from kratom-drug interactions.6-7

A recent study of data from the National Poison Data System revealed that poison control centers in the United States received about 1,800 reports involving the use of kratom from 2011-2017, including 11 reports of death.8 About half of these exposures to kratom resulted in serious negative outcomes that included seizures and high blood pressure.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is aware of at least 36 deaths attributed to the use of products containing kratom from 2010-2015.9 Postmortem toxicology testing results from the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System showed the detection of kratom in 152 cases of unintentional and undetermined opioid overdose deaths from 2016-2017, with kratom identified as the cause of death in 91 of these cases.10

People who consume kratom may report withdrawal symptoms similar to those that occur after opioid use. Physical withdrawal symptoms commonly experienced include:11

  • Muscle spasms and pain
  • Sleeping difficulty
  • Watery eyes/nose
  • Hot flashes
  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea

Psychological withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with kratom use include:11

  • Restlessness
  • Tension
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Nervousness

Treatment Options

Regular users may experience cravings once they stop consuming it. The withdrawal symptoms are usually relatively mild and typically diminish within a week.12 However, if you are trying to quit kratom and are experiencing serious withdrawal issues, please do not hesitate to seek help through a treatment program. Due to its similarity to opioid drugs, it may be best to undergo medically supervised detox in an addiction rehab facility where trained professionals can deal with any withdrawal symptoms to ensure your safety and comfort.

There are no specific medical treatments for kratom addiction, although the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction suggests that dihydrocodeine-lofexidine combination, a medication given for opioid addiction, may be helpful for treating withdrawal symptoms during detox.12

Antidepressants, anxiolytic drugs, anti-inflammatory medications, and other pharmacological agents may also be useful during the treatment of kratom dependence. Some people seeking treatment have found behavioral therapy to be helpful, although more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of this treatment option.2

If you or a loved one is suffering from a dependance on kratom, reaching out to an addiction specialist will give you the best chance for successful recovery.


  1. White, C.M. (2018). Pharmacologic and clinical assessment of kratom. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 75(5), 261-267.
  2. Drug Enforcement Agency. (2013). Kratom.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Drug Facts: Kratom.
  4. Cinosi, E., Martinotti, G., Simonato, P., Singh, D., Demetrovics, Z., …& Corazza, O.) (2015). Following “the Roots” of Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa): The Evolution of an Enhancer from a Traditional Use to Increase Work and Productivity in Southeast Asia to a Recreational Psychoactive Drug in Western Countries. Biomed Research International, Volume 2015(Article ID 968786), 1-11.
  5. White, C.M. (2018). Pharmacologic and clinical assessment of kratom. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 75(5), 261-267.
  6. Antony, A., & Lee, T.P. (2018). Herb-induced liver injury with cholestasis and renal injury secondary to short-term use of Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa). American Journal of Therapeutics, 26(4), 546-547.
  7. Hughes, R.L. (2019). Fatal combination of mitragynine and quetiapine – a case report with discussion of a potential herb-drug interaction. Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, 15(1):110–113.
  8. Post, S., Spiller, H.A., Chounthirath, T., & Smith, G.A. (2019). Kratom exposures reported to United States poison control centers: 2011-2017. Clinical Toxicology, 57(10), 847-854.
  9. Food and Drug Administration. (2017). Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. on FDA advisory about deadly risks associated with kratom.
  10. Olsen, E.O., O’Donnell, J., Mattson, C.L., Schier, J.G., & Wilson, N. (2019). Notes from the Field: Unintentional Drug Overdose Deaths with Kratom Detected – 27 States, July 2016-December 2017. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 68(14), 326–327.
  11. Singh, D., Müller, C.P., & Vicknasingam, B.K. (2014). Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) dependence, withdrawal symptoms and craving in regular users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 139, 132-137.
  12. European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2015). Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) drug profile.
Last Updated on October 30, 2019
Michael Kaliszewski, PhD
Michael Kaliszewski, PhD
Dr. Michael Kaliszewski is a freelance science writer with over 15 years of experience as a research scientist in both academia and industry.
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