Can Kratom Enhance Psychedelic Therapy for Addiction Treatment?

Image credit Wikimedia Commons user ThorPorre
Kratom leaves. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons user ThorPorre

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a Southeast Asian plant that has been used for thousands of years as a traditional medicine, aphrodisiac, stimulant, and painkiller. But in recent years, the plant has moved beyond its Southeast Asian roots as individuals around the world have reported great success using kratom as a kind of opioid replacement therapy. The effects of this potential plant medicine are similar to a natural methadone but have less impact on cognition and a reduced  — but not negligible  potential for addiction. Kratom is legal in most of the US, and in combination with successful psychedelic therapies like ibogaine, it could be the next step in combating opioid addiction.

A Legal Plant with Opiate-Like Effects

While the alkaloids present in kratom are structurally different from the well-known opiates such as heroin, methadone, or oxycontin, they act similarly to these drugs and produce many similar effects. Unlike other opiates, however, kratom acts as a stimulant rather than a sedative at low and moderate doses, and it only creates the pronounced euphoric and analgesic effects typically associated with opiates at higher doses. This is likely why kratom leaves have been traditionally used by laborers in Southeast Asia in a manner very similar to how coca leaves are chewed in the Andes  to reduce fatigue, bolster energy, and stimulate the mind.

On the cautionary side, it’s important to note that kratom does have the potential for abuse. While anecdotal evidence from traditional Southeast Asian and modern Western use suggests that it is far safer and less addictive than stronger opiates and is an effective tool in ending addiction to those stronger opiates, some people have reported that daily use of kratom at high dosage levels can lead to addiction. More importantly, kratom has been scientifically researched very little, so its full neurological effects and drug interactions are not well understood yet.

Currently, kratom is federally legal in the United States and available at head shops, kava bars, and online outlets. Looming on the horizon, however, is the fact that the DEA has added it to its Drugs of Concern list, and Tennessee, Indiana, Vermont and Wisconsin have all outlawed kratom on the state level. This means that the scheduling of kratom as an illegal drug could happen, which would be a shame because it means exponentially more hoops to jump through to perform proper research into kratom’s potential benefits, and less of a chance for it to be made available in treatment for opiate addicts.

While kratom leaves have historically been chewed, it is also commonly consumed in capsules or as a powder dissolved in a liquid like fruit juice. | Image source: Wikimedia Commons via user Psychonaught
While kratom leaves have historically been chewed, it is also commonly consumed in capsules or as a powder dissolved in a liquid like fruit juice. | Image source: Wikimedia Commons via user Psychonaught

Potential Uses with Ibogaine for Addiction Treatment

When it comes to jungle plants that help with ending opiate addiction, kratom shares the stage with the West African shrub iboga and its alkaloid ibogaine, a powerful psychedelic that has gained significant attention in recent years for being able to interrupt even the deepest of opiate addictions in a single dose while reducing or eliminating the hellish symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal.

Ibogaine is at the forefront of psychedelic substances that have great potential for addiction treatment, and while it is immensely effective during and immediately after being administered, researchers and recovery coaches have emphasized the critical importance of proper follow-up care for patients after their ibogaine experience to help them from slipping back into hard opiate abuse. Kratom may provide just the right kind of buffer to help hardcore opiate addicts taper off their habit after an ibogaine experience without the use of methadone, which is commonly prescribed to recovering heroin addicts but is actually more addictive and harder to withdraw from than even heroin itself.

From a harm reduction standpoint, kratom and ibogaine together seem like a fantastic pairing for opiate abuse treatment, but more research is urgently needed to understand its benefits, toxicology, and appropriate use. Hopefully, as kratom continues to rise in popularity, scientists and substance abuse recovery specialists will uncover and share kratom’s potential before more governments move to outlaw it entirely.

 

Psychotherapists and other experts are harnessing the transcendent power of psychedelics to treat mood disorders, substance addiction, and much more. The staff at Psychedelic Times is here to provide guidance and support through the processes of psychedelic integration and recovery coaching. Contact us with your questions about psychedelic therapy―the journey starts today.

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Wesley Thoricatha
Wesley Thoricatha is a writer, visionary artist, permaculture designer, and committed advocate for psychedelic therapy as a means to a more meaningful and harmonious world.
  • Great article and as a recovering alcoholic, and at a desperate point in my life last fall, combined with my knowledge of the potential of psychedelics to ease addiction, I used both kratom and edible marijuana to get some relief. I was able, over repeated use, to access and process a lot of trauma that I knew was there, but had not been able to understand in a deep psychological way, until then. Over a period of about 2 months of daily “sessions” (I used while running, training for Boston marathon), I was able to let go of a lot of “pain bodies” , and feel a deep sense of peace and connection with the universe, more so than ever in my life. I continue to use marijuana and am backing off the kratom, but don’t feel the pull of addiction in any way near as much as I had in the past. I’ve been able to make simple changes, choices, etc, that prior to this experience, was unable to get past. I’m almost 50, yet am filled with such a sense of inner freedom and joy, I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. I just happened upon your article and realized that the kratom had been contributing to the intensity of the experience. Up until just now, I had suspicions, but no corroborating info. THANK YOU, for writing this.