Kratom and Addictions

Kratom and Addictions: How Family Recovery Specialists Get it Wrong

3/10/2016 – Each and every day it’s the same routine. I wake up to 60 Facebook notifications. Undoubtedly at least half of them are posts that I’m tagged in that take me to yet another article where some business is bashing kratom. This time it’s Family Recovery Specialists and how they use or don’t use, kratom for addictions.

First, I want to take some time to explain who I am and why you should listen to what I have to say.

I am an ex-addict. Not a recovering addict. An ex-addict. I do not use substances of any form to fill a void in my soul. I grew out of that a long time ago when I realized that life is painful and that numbing pain with chemicals does not bring happiness. My choice to use drugs as a coping mechanism was just that – a choice.

If you have ever read the Big Book of Alcholics Anonymous you will recall this passage on page 62.

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So, which is it? Are addicts just fearful, delusional, self-seeking people who feel sorry for themselves and use chemicals to cope, or do we have a brain disease?

The current accepted model of addiction is that it is a brain disease. However, there are many addiction specialists such as Gabor Mate, Stanton Peele, Maia Svalavitz and Dr. Carl Hart who say that is not a brain disease. It is a choice. I know that’s not what you want to hear. But, think about this. If it is a choice then you can, on your own, choose to stop. If it’s a medical disease like cancer, then it can only be treated by medical specialists such as the billion dollar treatment industry.

And that’s why they want you to believe that kratom won’t help you overcome cravings. Because they don’t make money from it. It’s pure and simple.

But I am here to tell you that kratom has helped many addicts overcome their cravings for drugs such as heroin, meth and cocaine. And to back that claim I am going to tell you about a study that was done at Ole Miss by Dr. McCurdy and here is what he had to say:

“A lot of people who become addicted to methamphetamine, cocaine or even heroin truly want to quit,” McCurdy said. “They begin with recreational use and don’t think they will become addicted, but (they) soon get to the point where they almost must take the drug to survive, because withdrawal is so intense.”

Making withdrawal more endurable – and therefore, cessation more likely – is the goal of several projects in McCurdy’s medicinal chemistry laboratory. Among them is a National Institutes of Health Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence-funded study of kratom, a botanical mixture derived fromMitragyna speciosa, a treelike plant native to Southeast Asia. (COBRE grants are awarded by the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences through its Institutional Development Award, or IDeA, program, which builds research capabilities in states that historically have had low levels of NIH funding.)

“In Southeast Asia, kratom has long been used for coughs, diarrhea, muscle aches and pain,” McCurdy said. “It is also used as a replacement for opium when opium isn’t available and has been used to wean people off (that narcotic).”

McCurdy and his colleagues made a tea from Mitragyna leaves, freeze-dried it and tested it in mice habituated to morphine. Results indicate the tea has some undesirable side effects but that modifications eliminate them and show great promise.

Taking the work a step further, the group isolated the plant’s most abundant alkaloid, mitragynine, and tested the pure compound. Results indicate this compound’s activity is superior to methadone in the mouse withdrawal assay and that carefully created chemical variations may provide an alternative to methadone in treating addictions to opiates.

“Mitragynine completely blocked all withdrawal symptoms and could provide a remarkable step-down-like treatment for people addicted to hardcore narcotics such as morphine, oxycodone or heroin,” McCurdy said. “The compound has been known for years, but we’re working to come up with an improved synthetic analog or a better formulation of the tea for testing in humans.”

The billion dollar treatment industry will try to fool you into thinking that you can’t change your erroneous thinking without their help, and it’s going to cost you. A lot. My first trip to rehab was in 1986 when I spent 29 days at Hazelden in Minnesota. I completed the program there and went on to a psychiatric hospital for three months. After that I went to a halfway house for another six months. So for nearly a year I was examining myself on a daily basis. That was at age 16. At age 17 I graduated high school a semester early, but not before taking an elective high school psychology course. It was then that I decided to go to college to become a psychologist. My education included:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Intro to Psychology
  • Practical Psychology
  • Child Psychology
  • Biological Basis of Behavior
  • Sociology
  • Social Problems
  • Social Psychology

After two yeas of college, I dropped out due to major depression related to Bipolar Disorder. In 2012 I went back to college at the University of West Florida and became a Dean’s List student. Then I was injured. That’s when everything in my life changed. I could no longer be as active as I once was and again I became very depressed. My Primary Care Physician had me on Tramadol, Cymbalta, Gabapentin and a slew of other medications to help me push through the physical and emotional pain I was dealing with. I also self-medicated with cocaine. But I found kratom in October of 2012 and that’s when I realized I could stop taking 5, 6, 7 or even 10 different medications and take just one thing – kratom. It helped me with depression, pain and chronic fatigue. The meds I took prior to that had such bad side effects that I could barely function. And, without insurance, doctor visits and prescription meds are expensive.

Now let’s look at what the Family Recovery Specialists website says about kratom:

Ok, first of all, the quote they are using is from a January New York Times article that I already debunked here.

Briefly, I will say that the DEA listing something as a “chemical of concern” doesn’t really mean anything. The DEA classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 substance and we have already seen that marijuana does have medicinal value, especially in cases such as Charlotte Figi. Additionally, we’ve seen that the War on Drugs has cost Americans trillions of dollars. The Drug Policy Alliance states

The drug war is responsible for hundreds of billions of wasted tax dollars and misallocated government spending, as well as devastating human costs that far outweigh the damage caused by drugs alone. The United States’ unrivaled incarceration rate is a constant financial drain, causing an immeasurable loss in workforce productivity, and puts a strain on scant legal and law enforcement resources. While the federal government spends billions trying to reduce the demand for illegal drugs through prohibition, treatment consistently proves to be a more effective, cheaper and more humane way to lower the demand for illegal drugs.

Also, the number of people with a Substance Use Disorder in America according to SAMSHA is about 8.4% so that is a very small portion of the population. We cannot discount the people who benefit from taking kratom in order to rescue a minority of people who have a SUD.

As far as kratom causing respiratory depression, that’s also false. There is no evidence that kratom causes respiratory depression. In a 2008 study published in Addiction (Boyer, et al) it was stated that:

“Although mitragynines agonize mu opioid receptors, respiratory depression, coma, pulmonary edema and death have not, to our knowledge, been associated with human kratom ingestion.” (1)

Additionally, Maia Svalavitz wrote in an article published on Vice that:

Direct kratom overdoses from the life-threatening respiratory depression that usually occurs with opioid overdoses have not been reported,” says Oliver Grundmann, clinical associate professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida, who recently reviewed the research on kratom for theInternational Journal of Legal Medicine.

And finally, I want to address the comment the young woman made in the New York Times article where she said “It’s preying on the weak and the broken.”

First of all, kratom can’t “prey” on anyone. It’s a plant, not a human. It’s an inanimate object. Don’t give a plant human attributes of sentience. And second, stop playing the victim. If you are going to ingest something and you have a prior SUD, it’s a wise choice to do your homework first to assess if you may be at risk. Always learn about what you’re taking, whether it’s a prescription or a plant. Then, evaluate the evidence and the risks and make your decision on science, not emotion.

(1) Boyer, E. W., Babu, K. M., Adkins, J. E., McCurdy, C. R., & Halpern, J. H. (2008). Self-treatment of opioid withdrawal using kratom (Mitragynia speciosa korth).Addiction (Abingdon, England)103(6), 1048–1050. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02209.x

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