Kratom Withdrawal: Symptoms, Experiences, And Timeline
Kratom refers to the leaves of the plant Mitragyna speciosa, which belongs to the coffee plant family Rubiaceae. This plant has a long history of use in Southeast Asia due to its purported medical benefits and the stimulant effects it produces. The plant is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Traditionally, field workers would chew on kratom leaves to help increase their energy and endurance, aid their heat tolerance, and relieve fatigue.
The use of kratom, however, has spread to the West, creating a whole market for kratom products. While kratom leaves are traditionally chewed, brewed into a tea, or smoked, nowadays, they are ground up into a powder. Kratom powder is either sold on its own or in capsules. Kratom extracts are also a popular option for many buyers, as these can provide strong effects with a much smaller dose.
In higher doses, kratom can have a sedative, opioid-like effect. While many people find that kratom is helpful for beating addiction, it’s also possible to become addicted to it. This can result in kratom withdrawal symptoms.
While kratom is legal to buy and consume, this doesn’t mean that an addiction to kratom — and resulting withdrawal symptoms — will necessarily be mild. Some people do struggle intensely with a kratom addiction and report quite unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
This guide will aim to answer all the questions you might have about kratom withdrawal. We will be exploring:
- Kratom effects
- Kratom addiction
- Kratom withdrawal symptoms
- The severity of kratom withdrawal compared to other substances
- How long kratom withdrawal lasts
- How to deal with kratom withdrawal
- How kratom is used to aid withdrawal from other drugs, such as opiates
The compounds found in kratom act upon various receptors in the brain. These chemicals cause effects similar to those of stimulants and opioid pain relievers, depending on the dosage.
In small doses, between 1-5 g of powder, kratom acts as a stimulant and appears to increase energy, helping users feel more alert and sociable.
In higher doses, between 5-15 g, kratom produces a sedative effect, similar to that of opioid pain relievers, such as morphine and codeine. At this dosage level, kratom will cause you to feel tired, calm, euphoric, and dreamy. You will also experience analgesic (pain-relieving) effects.
In doses higher than 15 g, kratom’s sedative effects become more pronounced and may cause you to lose consciousness.
Kratom leaves contain more than 40 compounds, but mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are the two main ones. These are the ones responsible for kratom’s effects.
It’s also worth noting that kratom leaves from different parts of Southeast Asia have varying levels of mitragynine. Malaysian kratom leaves have a much lower concentration at 12 percent, while the figure is 66 percent for Thai kratom leaves. This means you don’t need as much of the latter to achieve the desired effects.
Using kratom can also result in the following physical effects:
- Increased libido
- Dry mouth
- Increase urination
- Loss of appetite
While many people use kratom to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms, this strategy can backfire. This is due to the risk of abusing kratom and becoming addicted to it.
Kratom is often seen by people as an alternative to opioids because it acts on the brain the same way when taken in higher doses. Indeed, kratom acts on opioid receptors, producing similar effects to morphine.
Unfortunately, this means that kratom can have a somewhat similar addiction potential to opioids.
Dependence vs. Addiction
Dependence and addiction aren’t the same.
Drug dependence refers to a physical state in which your body is dependent on a drug. You need more and more of the substance to achieve the same effect (which is known as tolerance). You then experience mental and/or physical effects (withdrawal) if you stop taking the drug.
When you have an addiction, you feel unable to stop using a drug, regardless of the negative consequences of your use. Addiction can occur with or without physical dependence on the drug, although physical dependence is a common feature (in cases of opioid or benzodiazepine addiction, for instance).
Physical Addiction vs. Psychological Addiction
Physical addiction is often used interchangeably with physical dependence. It refers to the physical withdrawal symptoms that result when you stop taking a drug.
Psychological addiction tends to stand for psychological dependence. This is when you strongly crave a substance and become dependent on its effects in order to feel well.
Unlike a physical addiction, a psychological addiction does not bring on physical withdrawal symptoms once the drug is withdrawn. Instead, the user experiences a compulsion or perceived need to use the drug again. There can also be psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, irritability, and low mood.
Abusing kratom can result in both physical and psychological addiction.
What Does Kratom Addiction Look Like?
Addiction often has common signs. It doesn’t matter what the substance is.
Some general signs of kratom addiction include:
- Wanting to use kratom on a regular basis, perhaps daily or several times per day
- Experiencing an urge to use kratom that’s so extreme it makes it difficult to focus on anything else
- Feeling an overwhelming need or urge to use kratom when a stressful situation arises
- Taking more kratom or taking it for a longer period of time than intended
- Needing larger doses to achieve the same effect as the use of kratom continues
- Keeping a constant supply of kratom
- Spending money on kratom, even when money is tight
- Using kratom in spite of the problems it causes or the risk it poses. This can include negative effects on one’s physical and mental health, work, and relationships.
- Spending excessive amounts of time obtaining kratom, using it, and recovering from its effects
- Thinking about kratom throughout the day
- Trying (and failing) to stop using kratom
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms once the use of kratom has stopped
How To Recognize Kratom Addiction In Others
Your friend or loved one might try to hide their kratom addiction from you. Nonetheless, the following can be signs of such an addiction:
- Changes in mood: Mood swings, anxiety, depression, or irritability
- Behavioral changes: Acting secretively
- Changes in physical appearance: Red eyes or weight loss
- Changes in social activities: Withdrawing from friends or family or relationship problems
- Poor school or work performance: A drop in grades or work performance, disinterest in school or work, or skipping school on a regular basis
Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms
There is relatively little research on kratom withdrawal. However, there are many anecdotal reports from people who have struggled with this effect of their kratom use.
How Bad Is Kratom Withdrawal?
Kratom withdrawal involves many of the same symptoms as opioid withdrawal symptoms, though they aren’t always as severe.
Physical symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Jerky movements
- Weakness and fatigue
- Runny nose and watery eyes
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
- Blurred vision
- Hot flashes and sweats
- Decreased appetite
- Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
Psychological symptoms include:
- Changes in mood
Research On Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms
A 2010 case study published in European Addiction Research reported the following kratom withdrawal symptoms:
The authors point out that there are many anecdotal descriptions of kratom dependence online, but few descriptions in the medical literature.
They add that their case report: “supports a hypothesis that the active substances — mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine — cause a dependence syndrome primarily via agonist activity at opioid receptors. Additionally, the pattern of 6-hourly dosing to prevent withdrawal and the relatively short (less than 4 days) period of withdrawal suggests that the active substances in kratom have a short half-life. In this patient, the use of dihydrocodeine and lofexidine appeared to have a positive supportive effect in ameliorating distressing withdrawal symptoms in an inpatient detoxification setting.”
A 1975 study of 30 Thai chronic kratom users described dependence with side effects of long-term use documented as weight loss, dark pigmentation of the cheeks, constipation, and, in five of the patients studied, psychosis.
Withdrawal symptoms were similar to those of opioid withdrawal and included irritability, rhinorrhea (runny nose), myalgia (muscle aches and pains), and jerky limb movements.
A 2008 case report of self-treatment of opioid dependence using kratom, with subsequent kratom dependence, describes kratom withdrawal as “considerably less intense but more protracted” than that from opioids.
Kratom withdrawal symptoms consisted of 10 days of rhinorrhea, insomnia, poor concentration, constricted affect (diminished variability and intensity of emotions), and myalgia.
This 2008 study also contains a brief description of drug treatment for kratom dependence, with maintenance buprenorphine/naloxone used to prevent relapse.
The increasing availability and use of legal highs like kratom present new challenges to substance misuse services. Further research into the pharmacology and patterns of use of kratom is important in assessing the potential for harm and dependence and the best method for treating those who become addicted.
The Severity Of Kratom Withdrawal Compared To Opioid Withdrawal
As previously mentioned, researchers have found that kratom withdrawal symptoms are not as severe as those of opioids. However, they can sometimes last longer.
So, if you become addicted to opioid pain relievers like morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, or oxycodone, withdrawing from these substances will likely be more difficult than withdrawing from kratom.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that kratom withdrawal will be an easy experience. It can still involve several days of unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms.
How Long Does Kratom Withdrawal Last?
How fast kratom withdrawal symptoms kick in and how long they last are very much dependent on how much you were using and for how long.
The size of your last dose will also impact when the effects wear off and when withdrawal symptoms set in.
According to U.S. and Malaysian surveys, kratom withdrawal symptoms typically appear within 12 to 48 hours of your last dose. These symptoms usually disappear within three days.
Nevertheless, as we have seen in the 2008 case report, kratom withdrawal symptoms can last for 10 days for some people. A separate 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs estimates that symptoms may last between three and 10 days. Symptoms may continue longer if you were taking a high dose of kratom for a long period of time.
Anecdotal reports suggest that some people who use kratom heavily experience what is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS happens in some people after withdrawal from a variety of substances. People with PAWS tend to experience depression, anxiety, and insomnia — that waxes and wanes — in the days or weeks following cessation of drug use.
So while acute physical withdrawal symptoms may last up to 10 days after you quit using kratom, unpleasant psychological effects may continue for weeks. These can include worsened mental health and cravings for kratom.
How To Cope With Kratom Withdrawal
Kratom withdrawal can be difficult for some people. When it comes to quitting kratom, you have basically two options. One is to quit cold turkey; the other is to slowly taper down your dose.
Quitting Kratom Cold Turkey
If you decide to give up kratom overnight, which many people do, this will minimize the amount of time you spend experiencing kratom withdrawal symptoms. However, this is often the most difficult way to beat a kratom addiction.
When quitting kratom cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms can come on quickly and be intense. This is what many addicts have to deal with when giving up other substances, such as opioid pain relievers.
While many people are able to give up kratom by quitting cold turkey, the fast onset of withdrawal symptoms can make relapse more tempting. After all, these unpleasant effects can be alleviated through the use of kratom. This is why it’s important to have support at hand if going ahead with this option.
Tapering Your Dose
Tapering means taking progressively smaller and less frequent doses over the course of several weeks. Some people prefer a gentler tapering strategy since it can reduce the severity of kratom withdrawal symptoms.
However, others want to get withdrawal over with as quickly as possible, in which case they quit cold turkey.
Whether you decide to quit cold turkey or taper your dose, there are many things you can do to ease the pain of kratom withdrawal. These include some of the following suggestions.
Try Over-The-Counter Medications
There are several over-the-counter medications available that can help alleviate kratom withdrawal symptoms. Examples include antidiarrheals (e.g. Imodium or Pepto-Bismol), sleep aids, and pain relievers (e.g. Tylenol, aspirin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, like ibuprofen).
As well as using pain relievers to deal with muscle aches and fever, you can use over-the-counter antiemetic drugs (e.g. Gravol, Dramamine, and Pepto-Bismol) to relieve nausea and vomiting.
Exercise And Walk Regularly
Many people have found that exercise, even a brief walk outside, can relieve some of the discomforts associated with kratom withdrawal. Vigorous exercise or a long, brisk walk can also be a great way to distract yourself from cravings and work out excess tension.
Vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive sweating can lead to dehydration. This is why you should drink plenty of fluids, including water and a rehydrating solution like Pedialyte to help replenish lost water and electrolytes.
Eat Small (But Frequent) Meals
Eating small, frequent meals and sticking to a bland diet can help with nausea and vomiting and help ease stomach discomfort.
Get Plenty Of Rest
Try to aim for a full night’s sleep and take a nap if you feel you need it during the day. This might help to combat any irritability or anxiety you feel. In order to get enough rest, you should put in place good sleep hygiene practices, including:
- Exercise during the day, so you feel ready to sleep at night time
- Keeping your room cool and dark at night time
- Having a hot shower before going to bed. This helps to increase your core body temperature, which is then followed by rapid cooling, ultimately lowering your core body temperature. This decrease will prepare you for sleep.
- Avoiding the use of devices (which emit blue light) a couple of hours before you go to bed
- Practicing meditation, mindful breathing, or slow and deep breathing if you are struggling to fall asleep
Apply Heat And Cold
Applying heat and cold can help with muscle aches.
Use Relaxation Techniques
You can utilize relaxation techniques — breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga — to improve pain, anxiety, and insomnia.
Participate In Hobbies And Activities
Engaging in activities you enjoy can help keep you occupied and distract you from withdrawal symptoms. Be sure to have things on hand like books, movies, documentaries, and music.
Talk To Loved Ones
During kratom withdrawals, you can benefit greatly by talking to a friend or family member or having someone come over for a visit. Emotional support can help you cope and spending time with someone whose company you enjoy can also act as a positive distraction.
It may be tempting to take a few days off work and avoid spending time with your friends and family during kratom withdrawal. However, keeping busy may be just what you need to get through the worst of the kratom withdrawal experience.
Remember Why You’re Quitting
During the difficult stage of kratom withdrawal, it can help to write down the top reasons why you want to stop using kratom. Keep this list handy and refer to it when you experience any cravings.
Don’t Hesitate To Reach Out For Extra Support
While some can manage kratom withdrawal symptoms at home, there’s no shame in reaching out for extra support if you are experiencing severe symptoms. Your healthcare provider may be able to offer advice around a medically-assisted detox, which can help make symptoms more manageable.
Explain your situation to a doctor and tell them you expect symptoms similar to opioid withdrawal. They may prescribe detox medications that can help alleviate problems such as anxiety and nausea.
For those struggling with a more severe form of kratom addiction and, in turn, withdrawal symptoms, a rehab program can be an option. This would involve a medically supervised detox and being under the care of a trained physician to lessen withdrawal symptoms.
Upon completing this type of program, an outpatient program may be recommended. The aim of the latter is to uncover the reasons for kratom dependence, such as depression, anxiety, abuse, or trauma, which is essential for any recovering addict.
No two people are the same, so mental health support can be tailored to each individual based on their needs, which increases the chance of long-term recovery. Treatments can include a relapse prevention program and various forms of psychotherapy.
Even if you don’t join an inpatient or outpatient rehab program, you may still want to attend regular psychotherapy sessions to address the root cause of your kratom addiction. By better understanding your emotional distress and finding healthier ways to cope with it, you will feel less of a need to soothe your pain through substance abuse and addiction.
Many people also find that having some additional support from people who’ve been through it before can help.
You can find online or in-person support groups, depending on your preference. Some people prefer the anonymity of not having to meet others face-to-face, while others appreciate the connection gained from real-life interactions.
If you’re interested in online support and aren’t sure where to start, you could try checking out the Quitting Kratom community on Reddit. It’s fairly active and people regularly share their kratom withdrawal experience, as well as tips, tricks, and resources they’ve found helpful in their recovery.
Avoid Kratom Addiction
If you want to avoid kratom withdrawal symptoms entirely, then you want to avoid becoming addicted to kratom. You can enjoy kratom in moderation, but you should be aware of when experimental or moderate use slips into a more unhealthy pattern of use.
Not everyone who regularly uses kratom becomes dependent on it or experiences withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. The risk for dependence and potential withdrawal tends to increase when you use kratom in higher doses. A risky pattern of use would is usually five grams or more taken more than three times per day. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, however, and everyone is different.
People who self-medicate with kratom for physical and/or emotional pain, or who use it to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms of other drugs, may be more likely to experience kratom addiction and withdrawal.
This is why it’s important to always be aware of your reasons for using kratom.
A lot of the time, urges to use substances are based on an unconscious desire to alleviate emotional distress. There are also many psychological defense mechanisms that are used to avoid dealing with coping strategies like substance abuse. These can include avoidance, denial, blaming, and projection.
However, if you are honest with yourself and are open to talking through your emotional distress with a trained therapist, you can be aware of your emotional triggers and develop healthy coping strategies. By doing so, you will be more resilient and better equipped to avoid addiction, whether it’s an addiction to kratom or other drugs like opioids.
Using Kratom To Deal With Opioid Withdrawal
As already mentioned, many people struggling with opioid addiction and withdrawal may turn to kratom as a replacement drug. Since kratom has less potential for addiction than many opioid pain relievers, this is considered a sensible decision.
After all, opioid addiction can lead to a fatal overdose.
In contrast, kratom, on its own, is unlikely to result in such a reaction. Even in large doses, kratom does not appear to affect the respiratory system in the way that opioids can. Kratom withdrawal isn’t dangerous. In most cases, it’s mild, like a bad cold.
However, as we have seen, kratom itself can result in addiction and its own set of withdrawal symptoms. A kratom addiction may, in the end, just replace the opioid addiction.
Rather than rely on kratom to overcome opioid withdrawal symptoms, it may be better to seek out safer alternatives. Many of these alternatives will include the options listed above for dealing with kratom withdrawal.
These strategies may include a medically supervised detox, regular psychotherapy sessions, support groups, pursuing a healthy and active lifestyle, and techniques for managing one’s emotions.
The Bottom Line
If you are currently going through kratom withdrawal or are planning to quit, it may be helpful to reach out to other people who have experienced it as well. Just knowing that you’re not alone can benefit your journey to recovery.
There are many online resources for addiction recovery, including support groups. Some of these groups are for general addiction recovery, while others may be specific to kratom use and withdrawal.
You can also try participating in a few different groups until you find the one that works best for you. Peer support may play an important role in success rates for recovery from addiction. Some studies show a positive link between the two.
Most people start using kratom with good intentions. Many want a safe and natural way to treat pain and anxiety. And using kratom in this way may work for a while.
However, when kratom use starts to take over your life, then it’s time to quit, or at least re-develop your relationship with the plant. Quitting may be a bit harder than you imagined, but it is certainly achievable.
If you’re struggling, reach out for help. There are plenty of resources to help support you during withdrawal and throughout the recovery process.