You may have heard a bit about kratom, a controversial herbal supplement under scrutiny by the U.S. government, and want to know a little bit more. The government says it is harmful. Others who buy kratom believe it has certain health benefits as a pain reliever and alternative to opiate medications. Before engaging with a kratom supplier, here’s what you need to know about this drug.

  1. What is Kratom?

Kratom is derived from the leaves of a Southeast Asian tree called Mitragyna speciosa. Some believe the leaves produce a psychoactive response to those who ingest the plant. The leaves are often crushed and then smoked, brewed in tea or swallowed in capsules.

  1. Are There Any Benefits to Kratom?

Proponents of the supplement say the drug’s main benefit is pain relief. Others believe kratom helps alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal, particularly when a person stops using opiates. Other possible benefits include relief from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

  1. How Does the Body React to Kratom?

Research suggests that the drug binds to a person’s opiate receptor, even though it is not an opiate. There is limited study of the drug, however, so overall effects on the body are unknown.

  1. Is It Dangerous to Take Kratom?

With limited study of the drug, it is unknown what long-term risks may exist for those who take kratom. Some side effects reported by users include upset stomach, vomiting, itching and both stimulation and sedation.

  1. Is Kratom Addictive?

According to government reports, kratom has addictive properties. Some users – one in 10 according to one study – report withdrawal symptoms when the cease taking the drug. Other say they find they build up a tolerance to the drug.

If you or someone you know has struggled with substance abuse issues, experts suggest that you abstain from taking kratom, since there is much still unknown about the drug. Experts believe that once started, for some people, it may be difficult to quit.

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