In the US, researchers are currently studying an herb called kratom for its potential as an opiate substitute. With much of the same pain-relieving, mood-heightening effects of opiates, kratom may help recovering opiate addicts (heroin, OxyContin, etc) better manage their withdrawal and avoid relapse.

 

What Is It?

 

Kratom (mitragyna speciosa) is a psychoactive herb and a part of the coffee family. It is native to Southeast Asia. Kratom leaves can be chewed to uplift mood and, supposedly, combat certain health problems.

 

What Does It Do?

 

When taken in low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant. When taken in high doses, it acts much like a sedative.

 

Side effects of chronic usage include hallucinations, delusions, listlessness, tremors, nausea, and aggression.

 

How Might It Help?

 

For years, kratom has been advertised on the dark web as a way to combat fatigue, pain, and heroin withdrawal. Research suggests that the drug has compounds that work similar to methadone, a medication used to wean addicts off addictive drugs. Thailand, which has banned kratom for 70 years, is currently eyeing out the herb as a potential solution to the country’s growing methamphetamine epidemic.

 

Is It Dangerous?

 

Despite newfound interest in the medical community, the DEA maintains that kratom is a potentially-abusive drug with zero accepted medical benefit. There may be some truth to that label, data suggests. Emergency room doctors in the US have reported seeing patients admitted due to getting sick from taking the herb. Indiana has banned the consumption of kratom completely.

 

However, kratom is legal on a federal level. Further, it has not been linked to any fatalities thus far.

With more research being conducted on kratom, both the risks and benefits of the drug are becoming clearer. Depending on how that goes, kratom may be included in the field of addiction treatment.

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