kratom abuse facts

Withdrawal symptoms  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Detox |  Back to top

Kratom popularity is on the rise, and there has been great debate on its safety level for medicinal and recreational use. Millions of Americans, namely opioid users, insist that kratom is their savior. However, the herbal substance has reportedly caused 91 deaths within an 18-month period ending in 2017; and that number has grown significantly.

Regardless of kratom’s potential therapeutic benefits, the facts remain the same: Kratom use either opens the door or leaves the already opened door ajar to substance dependency and abuse. That means that discontinuing the use of kratom will result in withdrawal.

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re either wondering how kratom leads to substance abuse or how long does kratom withdrawal last. We’re about to answer all of those questions and more—keep reading.

What’s the Deal With Kratom?

Kratom is broadly defined as an herbal supplement made from the leaves of the Mitragayna Speciosa, otherwise known as the kratom tree. The kratom tree is indigenous to Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea.

Much like khat and coca leaves, kratom has been used traditionally throughout these countries as a homeopathic pain reliever, energy booster, and aphrodisiac. It’s also applied topically for wound healing and as a local anesthetic. It’s also used recreationally for its euphoric effects.

The kratom leaves are typically chewed or brewed into a tea. The leaves can also be smoked, similar to how marijuana is smoked, or crushed into a powder for supplementary purposes. In the United States, kratom can easily be found in pill, tea, and powder form.

Kratom is legal on a federal level. However, many states have banned the substance sales—which have been found at smoke shops labeled as “incense” or under other pseudonyms. Arguably the largest issue with kratom is that it behaves like an opioid—and is largely underregulated.

Currently, the FDA advises against using kratom for multiple reasons. The primary reasons have to do with the need for more scientific evaluation as it’s not yet FDA approved. There’s also the potential to abuse the substance, leading to addiction and, in some cases, death.

How Does Kratom Affect the Brain and Body?

Interestingly enough, kratom is sought after as a means to self-treat opioid addiction and withdrawal. This is thanks to the misconception that kratom is a natural, safe, healthy, and effective remedy to combat addiction. In reality, kratom is more than capable of exacerbating addiction because it contains similar chemical compounds as opioids.

The two chemical compounds in kratom responsible for how the substance interacts with the brain and body are Mitragynine and 7-Hydroxymitragynine. These two compounds specifically interact with the brain’s opioid receptors to produce feelings of sedation, pain relief, and pleasure. Mitragynine is also known to interact with some of the brain’s other neuroreceptor systems, making it responsible for kratom’s stimulating effects.

In other words, much like opioids, kratom causes the brain to release endorphins voluntarily, i.e., feel-good chemicals throughout the central nervous system.

Here’s the issue:

The brain gradually becomes accustomed to the synthetic stimuli and begins to builds up a tolerance. The tolerance is the direct result of overexposure to kratom’s stimuli, which forces it to produce more endorphin receptors to accommodate the stimulation. After a while, higher doses of kratom are needed to produce the same effects, and the pattern continues.

With a higher amount of endorphin receptors, there’s now a greater demand for endorphins. Unfortunately, this new pattern also creates a deficit in the brain’s naturally produced endorphins—hence the need for larger doses of kratom. This is how a chemical dependency is formed in the brain, manifesting as an addiction.

When the demand for a larger number of endorphins isn’t met, withdrawal happens.

symptoms of kratom withdrawal

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Detox |  Back to top

Kratom withdrawal is said to be relatable to a bad cold and not necessarily dangerous. However, the physical and psychological dependence created by extensive kratom use can be just as difficult to overcome as addiction to other illicit drugs.

The symptoms of kratom withdrawal include:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Aggression and hostility
  • Excessive sweating
  • Food cravings
  • Aches and pains in limbs and joints
  • Itchy eyes and a runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Muscle spasms and restlessness
  • Feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression, or high levels of stress
  • Fever and hot flashes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizziness, headache, and migraines
  • States of psychosis (including hallucinations)*

Exhibiting one or more of the above symptoms is perfectly normal and typically begin to subside by the fourth day of withdrawal. However, their severity various by each individual.

It’s important to note that the side effects of consistent and excessive kratom use include:

  • Psychological damage
  • Potential to develop eating disorders
  • Potential to develop a seizure disorder
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Organ damage
  • Neurological damage
  • Death

*States of psychosis are more likely to manifest in individuals with a history of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, manic depression, and schizophrenia. Long-term use of kratom can also cause psychological damage resulting in psychosis. However, psychosis will be more prevalent in those with pre-existing mental conditions.

kratom withdrawal timeline

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal symptoms  |  Detox |  Back to top

The timeline of kratom withdrawal is loosely based upon opioid withdrawal since they contain similar chemical compounds. Opioid withdrawal typically begins between six and twelve hours of the last dose, reaching its peak within two to three days and lasting between five and ten days. According to the kratom profile created by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), kratom withdrawal lasts about a week.

Additionally, kratom withdrawal duration will be directly related to the level of the individual’s dependency on the substance. Other relevant factors that impact the timeline include the individual’s physiological makeup, genetics, history of drug use and dependency, presence of other substances in the body, any mental or medical health issues, environment, and the duration of the individual’s kratom use and abuse.

symptoms of kratom detox

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal symptoms  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Back to top

So, how long does kratom withdrawal last? Well, the exact timeline depends entirely on the individual. Of course, if there’s one thing that all kratom users have in common, it’s the realization that kratom can be dangerous and that going through withdrawal isn’t something to take lightly.

If you or something you know is experiencing kratom substance abuse or withdrawal, you (or they) don’t have to go through it alone. Contact us today to find out how we can help ease your suffering and help you start over.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Kratom Withdrawal and Detox: Timeline, Symptoms, and Treatment