Kratom is a popular herbal supplement widely consumed and believed to be safe by many. This assumption is based on the fact that nobody regulates production, distribution, and use. However, for this same reason, it could be very unsafe, and some studies hint at its possible side effects.
Due to its lack of regulation, a few US states have banned kratom. One of the major controversies surrounding this substance is kratom-induced liver injury. Drug-induced liver injury is a commonly researched topic, and studies have linked excessive kratom use with acute liver injury.
Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend or approve kratom for medicinal uses. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also outrightly classifies kratom as a ‘Drug and Chemical of Concern.’ Before exploring further, it is crucial to examine if kratom is addictive to give rise to legitimate concerns of abuse.
Is Kratom Addictive?
In a 2016 press release by the DEA, it announced its intent to classify some of the major active components of kratom as schedule 1 substances. These ingredients were Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, two psychoactive compounds responsible for kratom’s effects on the body.
These effects range from stimulating to sedative effects. Kratom could also be responsible for causing a feeling of ‘highness’ similar to weed and other controlled substances. Research also shows that it has similar effects on the brain receptors as opioids do. And it is common knowledge that opioids are highly addictive. In the same vein, kratom has proven to be addictive.
However, kratom is usually marketed as a solution to opioid withdrawal, although some medical practitioners suggest it leads to addiction and withdrawal. Many vendors offer kratom online and claim to offer high quality products. Addiction begins when people become dependent on a substance. This means people can become addicted to anything when exposed to it.
With psychoactive drugs that provide relief from pain and altered senses, it becomes very easy to crave such feelings and become dependent constantly. Therefore, it is generally established that kratom is an addictive substance. However, taking dietary supplements from kratom, like kratom herbal tea, very moderately may not cause addiction.
The DEA and FDA recognize the addictive tendency of kratom. Also, several independent organizations help and support drug and alcohol addiction. Kratom-Induced Liver Disease could result from prolonged kratom use and addiction. But first, what is the function of a healthy liver?
Functions Of The Liver
The liver is an incredibly powerful and busy organ in the body. Medical specialists have identified it as performing over 500 different bodily functions, which is why liver injury or failure can be fatal.
Some of the most well-known and important functions of the liver include:
The liver is a large filter that filters all the blood in the body. At any given time, it holds about 13% of all the blood in the body. It removes toxic substances and wastes from the blood, which are the substances that the human body excretes as waste and urine.
It also breaks down some of these toxic substances that may be poisonous into non-harmful substances. An example is its conversion of harmful ammonia, which may form from the metabolism of amino acids into urea, passed out in the urine.
The liver helps to metabolize drugs, alcohol, and other things so that the body can absorb useful nutrients and get rid of the bad. In essence, one could describe the liver as a detoxifier.
Blood Plasma Production
Most proteins that make up the blood plasma are manufactured in and by the liver. One such important protein is albumin which is responsible for some blood transport functions, maintaining osmotic balance, and neutralizing free radicals in the body.
Production Of Bile
Due to the metabolism that goes on in the liver, it produces some by-products that the body should not accumulate. Accumulation of some of these metabolites, such as bilirubin, in the body, can cause diseases.
The liver produces bile as a waste product that contains these metabolites like cholesterol and toxic materials. This bile carries this waste out of the body. Also, it helps the body to break down and digest fat-soluble vitamins. If bile production is affected, it could lead to several complications and diseases.
Blood Clot Regulation
The body depends on many mechanisms and compounds to initiate the clotting process. An important one is Vitamin K, which synthesizes important proteins that the blood needs to clot.
However, Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that the body needs the presence of bile salts to be able to absorb it and then use it. The liver produces bile, causing the blood clotting functions of the body to be indirectly dependent on the liver.
Nutrient Breakdown, Conversion, And Storage
The liver is responsible for the major metabolic processes in the body. It breaks down fat to produce energy and aids in its absorption. When it comes to protein, the liver converts the amino acids from protein into stores that the body can use to produce energy in the event of carbohydrate or fat deficiency.
Perhaps most importantly, the liver ensures that the sugar level in the body is regulated. If there is a spike in blood sugar, it takes away excess glucose from the body and stores it as glycogen.
The liver can also convert glycogen back into glucose if there is a drop in the sugar level of the blood. It does this by secreting two hormones named insulin and glucagon.
Drug-induced liver injury can interfere with all of these functions of the liver. While most cases of DILI are not severe, kratom has been linked with causing acute liver failure. This kind of injury to the liver can cause death or require a transplant.
Kratom Liver Toxicity
Drug-Induced Liver Injury (DILI) is a well-known condition where over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, prescription drugs, and hard drugs cause damage to the liver. There are over a thousand drugs capable of causing liver injury. Similarly, Herb-Induced Liver Injury (HILI) is also recognized as liver damage from herbal dietary supplements or medicines.
The kratom plant (Mitragyna speciosa) is a herbal supplement and is classified as a drug by the DEA at the same time. Therefore, its damaging effects on the liver can be classified as herb and drug-induced liver injury.
Liver toxicity from the use of kratom falls under the scope of hepatotoxicity. It is also known as toxic hepatitis, and kratom liver toxicity occurs with regular use of the substance. It can start in as little as a week after constant use is established, and common symptoms are dark urine, abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, etc. One can experience this whether they take kratom tablets, powder, or tea.
This toxicity can lead to jaundice and more serious liver injury, such as acute failure. Several cases have been reported in relevant studies and to the Food and Drug Administration.
Effects Of Taking Kratom
Drug-induced liver disease is one side effect of using kratom. However, there are other effects of using kratom extracts, whether positive or negative effects. Some of these include:
Infant Dependence And Withdrawal
There have been cases of kratom neonatal dependence. In this situation, a pregnant mother takes kratom, and the fetus develops dependence in vivo, i.e., in the womb. The child, upon birth, exhibits withdrawal symptoms similar to those exhibited in an adult.
This is why pregnant and breastfeeding people are advised against taking any drugs, especially ones like kratom that can bind to opioid receptors. The advised thing to do is seek medical advice before taking kratom or any supplements.
One of the reasons people take kratom is its effects on their mental state. Like caffeine, drinking kratom tea might improve a person’s cognitive alertness. This stimulating effect is noticeable when one takes kratom in small doses.
However, people sensitive to caffeine or prone to overstimulating may react adversely. While it may improve mood and sociability, it may also cause sweating, nausea, and insomnia.
In very high doses, kratom may have a sedative effect that puts one to sleep. For this reason, some take it to help them with insomnia. However, this use of kratom is neither well researched nor medically approved.
Pain Reduction And Euphoria
Kratom binds to opioid receptors similar to other opioids. Opioids are popular for their pain-relieving effects, which is one of the reasons people experiencing chronic pain get easily addicted to them.
Similarly, kratom can cause the user to experience a mental high at a certain dose. This type of feeling is euphoric and may enable one to temporarily feel numb to their pain. However, because this feeling wears off, it can lead to dependence and addiction.
Link Between Kratom And Alcohol Addiction
Kratom has a connection with abusing other toxic substances, including alcohol addiction. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly all cases of death arising from kratom use were linked with another substance, drug, or contaminant.
Many alcohol addicts take it with kratom. As both substances are anti-depressants, users might hope to enhance their effects by taking them together. However, taking kratom with alcohol can increase the likelihood of overdosing.
Also, both substances may enhance the negative effects of each other as they enhance the perceived positives. This means more toxicity for the body, especially the liver, which has to break both down. Most bodies that provide support for alcohol addiction will also be able to assist kratom addicts or people suffering from both conditions.
Does Kratom Liver Toxicity Disappear With Time?
According to research, people who suffer from kratom liver damage or acute hepatitis usually recover once they discontinue its use. In people suffering from acute liver failure, prompt treatment should lead to recovery within two to three months.
Upon discontinuing the substance, one can expect to be better in a few months and fully healed within a year. However, kratom liver toxicity will only worsen if one continues to use kratom regularly.
How To Use Kratom Safely
Kratom may not be all bad if one can use it responsibly. Even though, many people use kratom for anxiety, pain and depression. While there is nothing definitive, there is scientific evidence that kratom does some things. For example, it works as an antidepressant and helps with pain relief. The major risk factors with kratom include overdosing, addiction, and the risk of contamination.
Avoiding An Overdose
Whether you drink kratom tea or add kratom powder to your food as a dietary supplement, you can overdose on kratom. Taking it moderately and infrequently is best, as regular use can lead to liver toxicity. If lower doses do not help you achieve your desired effect, you should consult your medical practitioner to suggest safer alternatives.
Purchase From Reliable Vendors
Since nobody is in charge of regulating kratom, many shady manufacturers mix their kratom with other toxic substances. Most issues that arise from kratom use involve contamination, as mentioned earlier. Therefore, it is best to go for a very reliable vendor.
You should avoid getting kratom through informal or shady sources. Research your manufacturer well and establish that they have a brand with integrity. Make sure you ask the necessary questions and see lab test results if possible.
Kratom are of different types including green malay kratom, white and red kratom.It is easy to overdose on kratom if one consistently abuses the drug. An overdose can lead to hypertension, liver injury, nausea, headaches, stomach aches, and in rare circumstances, death.
Data from US Poison Centers revealed 23 kratom-related deaths among older adults. This is in comparison to over 3000 exposures reported. Therefore, death is not a common result of kratom use or overdose, but it is possible.
Kratom Addiction Treatment
A medical practitioner can direct one to an appropriate treatment center for kratom addiction. Treatment starts with detoxification. Here the aim is to halt the use of the substance as effectively and efficiently as possible. After this, one may undergo a comprehensive therapy and medication program.
Kratom Addiction Therapy
Here, the aim is to address the behavioral aspect of the addiction to prevent relapsing. They can help with cravings, self-sabotaging tendencies, and other underlying issues. Most times, one can opt for an individual, family, or group setting. Sessions typically become less regular as progress ensues.
Kratom Addiction Medication
Most times, medical practitioners use the same medicine used to treat opioid addiction to treat kratom addiction. Popular ones include Dihydrocodeine and lofexidine (Lucemyra). Other medications they use could be anti-depressants/anti-anxiety drugs.
Conclusion: Is Kratom Toxic To The Liver?
Kratom can be toxic to the liver. However, it only occurs when there is a case of contamination or one takes it excessively regularly. If you are susceptible to liver damage or are already suffering from an ailment, you should stay away from kratom. Apart from making your ailment worse, it can interfere with your prescription medication and cause more health challenges.
Otherwise, kratom is popular in Southeast Asia and many other parts of the world for its health effects. You may find using it moderately and with a doctor’s supervision beneficial to your health