Kratom Abuse: Effects, Signs & Symptoms

Kratom Abuse: Effects, Signs & SymptomsIf you believe that you or your loved one has been seriously misusing kratom, you will need a sound understanding of the disease of kratom addiction. It is critically important to understand its characteristic signs and symptoms, to know what kratom withdrawal symptoms look like. As well as to comprehend what the detox process entails. Lastly, to have a clear idea of what rehabilitation and treatment options are available for kratom addiction. Having such knowledge can significantly increase the chance that you or your loved one will achieve lasting, substance-free living 1.

Symptoms and Side Effects of Kratom Abuse

Because kratom has properties of a stimulant at low dose and properties of an opioid at higher doses, addiction to kratom can be considered part of two larger sets of conditions: a stimulant use disorder or an opioid use disorder. However, in February 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that, despite the relative lack of basic and clinical research into the mechanism of action of the drug, it considers kratom an opioid based on available computer modeling of what the drug does2. Many treating professionals also consider kratom to be an opioid3.  So, although scientifically controversial, kratom addiction will be considered as an opioid use disorder as our team discusses it with you.

Signs of Kratom Abuse

The 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, commonly known as the DSM-V, provides the accepted standard for healthcare professionals to define and diagnose an opioid use disorder. If kratom addiction is to be considered an opioid use disorder, these are the criteria for diagnosis 4:

  • Kratom use for longer than in intended or in larger amounts than intended
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop using kratom or cut down on its use (or a persistent desire to do so)
  • Spending great time and resources engaged with the drug, using it or recovering from its effects
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Continued use of kratom despite negative social and interpersonal consequences directly resulting from such use
  • Continued use despite known physical or psychological harm directly resulting from such use
  • Recurrent use of kratom in risky or hazardous situations
  • Recurrent use of the drug resulting in loss of function at school, home or work
  • Reducing or stopping important activities due to kratom use
  • Tolerance. The same amount of kratom producing less effect over time. Thus requiring more kratom to produce the same effect
  • Experiencing symptoms typical of the opioid withdrawal syndrome

Only two of these 11 criteria are needed to diagnose an opioid use disorder, though healthcare professionals understand that the last two criteria, tolerance and withdrawal, do not apply to diagnosing a disorder if someone is appropriately taking opioids for a medical condition.


This situation underscores the importance of distinguishing between the terms “dependence” and “addiction.”  Physical dependence is an expected result of regular use of all opioids or similar medications. Dependence results in drug tolerance over time and results in withdrawal if the drug is abruptly stopped or reduced. However, dependence by itself does not imply that a dependent person has lost control, functionality or life quality as a result of drug usage. Kratom addiction, on the other hand, is defined by a loss of control over one’s usage of kratom and often features dysfunctional emotional responses, behavioral impairments and a lack of self-awareness about such impairments 5.

Reach Out For Help

We provide holistic care and treatment using an individualized approach specifically tailored to your needs. Our holistic care and treatment is based on the best scientific evidence available. Secondly, we help you lead a healthy, substance-free life with adaptive coping and problem-solving skills. Don’t let Kratom addiction control your life. Our addiction professionals can help you get on a path of recovery, significantly changing your life. Contact us today for more information on our certified staff of professionals, as well as our first-rate facilities.

  1. Beattie MC et al. Effect of the social environment on alcohol involvement and subjective well-being prior to alcohol treatment.
    Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 1997;54:283-296
  2. S. Food and Drug Administration Press Release Feb. 6, 2018
  3. Topic: Opioid Abuse. Accessed August 20, 2018
  4. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  5. American Society of Addiction Medicine (2011). Public Policy Statement: Definition of Addiction
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