Thursday, December 25, 2014

Can Kratom Help Opiate Withdrawal?

When I go through my kratom communities, whether it's on my favorite social media site or on a kratom forum, I'm finding out a lot of people have stumbled across our beloved herb because they were searching for help to get through a DIY opiate withdrawal. Some hear about kratom for withdrawal help from a friend, but most happen upon information from an old forum thread or an informational kratom site that your most popular search engine just so happened to bring up. I know I did, and I was confused when I read these old pages. A lot of the information on opiate withdrawal and kratom is very unorganized, and lacking any relevant experiences. I remember the first thing I read about kratom, it was indeed from an old post to a forum and it was somebody asking about more information "because this really helps and feels good", and it was followed by several people agreeing upon those facts. Well thankfully, I took that as a sign and did several more hours of researching, because I only had a few days to find an answer to help me with the opiate detox I was about to endure without much to get me through. I'm going to put together everything I know in this entry, and you my good friends, are in for a real treat: a reader wanted to help me with this post, they decided to do an interview with me, and I will be giving my answers to these questions as well as gathering as much information on this topic as possible to bring you a complete guide and give you the report of a lifetime on kratom and opiate withdrawal.

  Something that I feel the need to elaborate on here, is that addiction and dependence are two different things, and they are very much natural processes that nobody should be ashamed about. Addiction comes with symptoms such as drug cravings, the urge to get more, changing habits, etc. Dependence however, is categorized by physical symptoms - cold sweats, diarrhea, restless leg syndrome, and well I could just list them all day long. In short terms, addiction is mostly mental, while dependence is physical. When you've been taking any substance with active alkaloids, peptides, or metabolites, you deal with either or both. Your brain tells you that you need more of the substance, and it does this by giving you mental, emotional, and physical cues. And in my opinion, it's human nature. We just want to get through life the easiest way possible, and that would be by listening to what our body is telling us to do; an instinct, if you will. 

 While it depends on the person, many people find relief from withdrawal symptoms by using kratom. Kratom has several active alkaloids, but the main two can activate a few of the opioid receptors that are located throughout your body, without being an actual opiate (albeit connecting rather mildly and gently), and therefore easing symptoms in most folks. If that sounds concerning, like it did to me when I first read this information, let me give you another need-to-know fact: Many plants and foods do the same thing, and I will explain more on those later on.

 Kratom has also helped many people with symptoms of opiate withdrawal like anxiety, diarrhea, restless leg syndrome, cold sweats (not-so-fun fact: the terms "kicking" and "cold turkey" came from the last two symptoms that I listed), sleeplessness, depression, loss of appetite, and lack of motivation, energy, and desire. That's because kratom contains many useful yet mild alkaloids, including one that is an antioxidant found in chocolate and green tea. 

 When it comes to taking kratom, everybody has the same questions: How much? How often? What method? Well, simply put, there's many options, doses, and methods for ingestion. Personally, I use a scale to weigh out my dose, but you can also use a spoon, a *baking/measuring spoon*. One full baking teaspoon equals anywhere from 1.8-2.6 grams in my experience. That's a great starting point for any beginners, and if you have a scale, 2-3 grams is what you're looking for. That was my starting dose and I've stuck to it. Many of you will find that you need more or less for desired effects, but everybody has to start somewhere. Do wait at least 6 hours after your last opiate dose before starting kratom, so that it may have the time to run through your body and take it on an empty stomach so the kratom will work it's magic. My dose lasts anywhere from 3-6 hours, depending on my activities that day and the strain that I used (for strain information, please see my earlier entry "Kratom Confusion"). Now, I also have a very high metabolism so your schedule may be slightly different and if you're just quitting opiates, you may consider taking your kratom a little more often. As far as methods, possibilities seem endless. Theres "toss and wash" - you have a sip of liquid, hold that in your mouth to prevent a coughing fit, and literally take your spoonful of love right to the mouth. I hold my kratom powder in my mouth for a good 30 seconds before swallowing to make sure no powder escapes, or you'll end up with that coughing fit I was talking about. You can also add your powdered leaf to soft foods like applesauce, pudding, yogurt, smoothies, or milkshakes. This was how I started out, and it was quite effective. Though, it did leave some behind and for fear of wasting it, I got brave and decided on the toss and wash method. You can also purchase the crushed leaf form, which I'm personally partial to, and make yourself a nice cup of tea. Getting a reusable teabag or cheesecloth if preferable, but loose leaf works well if you have something to strain it in, like a plastic and mesh reusable coffee filter. I'd start at 3 grams for tea, which is about 1.5 - 2.0 teaspoons of plant matter. Heat the water to almost boiling, adding a good dash of lemon juice to help extract the tea. Don't have lemon juice? No worries, it'll be just fine. Now, turn the heat down to low (barely a simmer), and add the tea or crushed leaves. gentle stir it from time to time, if you're using a tea bag then give a good "smash" once or twice during steeping to squeeze the tea out, and just let it be for the most part for about 10 minutes, but no more than 15. The tea will darken a bit, and if you taste it, you'll know it's done by the bitterness. Pour it into your favorite cup and enjoy with some apple or orange juice on the side (my favorites, even added to the tea itself gives it a slightly fruity flavor and it's fairly enjoyable). Whether you're taking the powder or drinking the tea, it will be like a bitter green tea, it's not everybody's favorite, but it's not as bad as some people make it out to be.

 As far as effects go, there's a lot of them to expect. When I had my dose, I noticed it kicked in almost immediately and my withdrawal symptoms subsided. I felt relaxed and I was suddenly in a fantastic mood. I was in the pain clinic for arthritis and post-cancer pain, so to be able to move my neck was just a joyous moment for me. I felt my muscles relax and I didn't have the urge to constantly move my legs. The constant throbbing and body aches dissipated and I didn't have the intolerable lack of energy or the shakes anymore, my stomach calmed down and my heart and pulse slowed to normal.  You can expect all of that, though I will warn you that because kratom contains a hypoglycemic, it is best to eat within an hour of taking it so that you can avoid dizziness. I also suggest drinking plenty of water and taking your first kratom dose at a time of day thats convenient for you. Again, kratom effects everyone differently and you want to clear your schedule so that you'll know how it works for you, then you'll be able to decide if you can take it at other times.

 When it comes to other herbs that could help with withdrawal, there's plenty out there to try. Blue or Red Lotus is a favorite of mine for anxiety and relaxation. California Poppy is another great example for anxiety and sleeplessness. I enjoy wild lettuce in small amounts, from time to time and did wonders to calm me down at night when I really needed it. Kava Kava is a great choice for anxiety, and I think it even helps a little with muscle spasms. Chocolate is great for withdrawal, particularly dark chocolate, and can help lift your spirits. Cordyalis can help withdrawals as well. Even throwing some of those poppy seeds from the spice aisle into your soup or tea can help calm your stomach and calm some of the symptoms. Those foods that I mentioned earlier? Well, all but the Kava and Wild Lettuce have peptides, metabolites, or alkaloids that "touch" the opiate receptors. All of these can be helpful in lessening the symptoms, if not ease some symptoms completely. They're all very mild in action, but it's good to keep a few of these on the back burner for when you decide you're ready to leave opiates behind. Small doses of these herbs and foods, with or without kratom, can provide some relief, in my experience. 
 Hey, it's time for another fun fact:  Even dairy milk can contain microscopic amounts of opiate peptides. Not enough to notice, but it's an interesting fact all the same!

The Interview

 This is the part that you've all been waiting for. While the information I provided above gives you the basics of the first dose and what to expect, everybody needs to know how others feel about kratom and it's important to hear other experiences to get a proper prospective.

 For the sake of anonymity, we're going to call the subject of my interview Mr. K. Allow me to introduce you guys!

Me: What would you like to get out of this article? Any particular message you'd like to spread?

Mr. K: I would just like to see my story shared and hope it inspires or helps someone currently or down the road. If it helps only one person I will be happy.

Me: Me too. I think that's a great way to start the article.

Me: Did you experience any discomfort? If so, What? 

Me: Personally, during withdrawal, I'd experience a slew of symptoms from stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea, to extreme anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness with a lack of energy.

Mr. K: I experienced tons of discomfort. I had been a full blown addict for 2 years so withdrawal was absolutely horrible for me. When you read a list of potential withdrawal symptoms, you can just check them all off. At that point in time, if I went more than 12 hours without using withdrawal would start. Usually within 24 hours of my last use I would be in full blown withdrawal. For me, the worst parts were the restlessness, lack of sleep, cold sweats, anxiety and nausea. I have a very customer service based government job and I have to deal with people face to face all day. In addition to that, it can be a very emotional stressful job. So if I woke up in withdrawal or knew I wasn’t going to be able to get anything before work or by my 10:00 AM, I would call in sick until I could score. 

Me: How long would you say that you experienced any withdrawal symptoms or drug cravings? 

Me: Personally, I've been through it a few times too many. I only experienced a few small annoyances when I started kratom, with almost unnoticeable post acute withdrawal, and my drug cravings only lasted about 3 weeks. But without kratom, it was awful and I experienced some seriously intense acute withdrawal, with post-acute lasting for months. That post-acute withdrawal drove me nuts, with memory, coordination, and decision-making problems being the worst and the cravings just went on.  

Mr. K: I never went longer than 2 or 3 days without anything. Rarely more than 2, but those 2 days felt like 2 years

Me: Worst part of withdrawal for you? Easiest?

Me: I thought the worst part was always the mental side for me, but the physical part of withdrawal was just the pits. not wanting to get out of bed, yet I couldn't stop moving was probably the hardest for me.

Mr. K: The worst part for me was the anxiety and diarrhea. I’m normally a very, very level headed and easy going person. But when the anxiety hit I could be a real monster. People usually knew something was wrong because I would snap at the slightest problem. I also have a severe IBS (which was one of the main reasons I self medicated with opiates). So once your digest tract gets chaotic from the withdrawal I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. 

Me: How did kratom help you? Did kratom change you, your outlook on life, or what you do on a day-to-day basis?

Mr. K: Kratom helping me is multifaceted. For one, I don’t spend the amount of money I used to spend. This is a rough guess, but I was spending approximately $2000 per month on opiates and it nearly bankrupted me. I spend on average about $200 per month on kratom. So only spending 10% of what I used to has helped me get myself and my family back on our feet. We still have issues we’re trying to correct but we’re in a much better place. Kratom has also helped with my IBS. I have not had any issues what so ever since I started taking it. I’ve been able to eat my favorite foods again (all happen to be spicy: Indian, Thai, etc). I’ve also been able to discipline my kratom use which has helped create a daily schedule and routine that I didn’t have before.

Me: Personally, I am now a happier more motivated woman. I cook and clean again, I chase my kids and I've even started writing (obviously) for the first time since I was a teenager, before I was introduced to drugs. I'm even back to working, which for me is a very physical job to say the least, and it had been since before my last surgery that I had worked. I feel more clear headed than I ever have, and the biggest change: I feel well. I haven't felt well since before I was diagnosed about 3 years ago. That's a huge deal for me and my family.

Me: Why do you think kratom would help others?

Mr. K: I don’t think kratom will help others, I know it will. I’ve seen hundreds of other people’s testimonials on the ways they have benefited from it. I have also helped one person switch from their prescription opiates to kratom and remark that kratom has worked better than anything her doctors have prescribed her. Kratom is cheap and all signs (albeit anecdotal) point to it being safe.  I don’t suffer from the depression that I had when I was using. My sex drive and performance has increased substantially (maybe TMI?). My work performance has gotten better and I’ve gotten bonuses that I didn’t receive when I was using opiates. Being that we stopped having the financial hardships that stemmed from my drug abuse, those are gone and made family life much better (we are going through a divorce, but that’s for other reasons)

Me: That's a fantastic answer. Not TMI at all. I think people need to hear this kind of stuff. Everyone thinks that they're alone in this, but really there's so many people going through withdrawal and addiction as I type this interview, and it's a real beast, especially if you don't think there's anything but drugs to cure it. I think a lot of people can benefit from kratom, whether it's full-blown addiction or a legitimate pain issue and the medicines they're prescribed aren't helping, kratom could help them.

.Me: What made you choose kratom for withdrawal?

Mr. K: I chose kratom because I had no other choice. I had dug a really deep hole financially and spiritually. I knew that I needed to do something and do it soon or I was going to be in trouble real soon. I did a quick google search and 15 minutes later I made my first order.

Me: How did you find out about kratom? Friend? Internet? Social Media?

Mr. K:  I found out about kratom through a friend who owned a music store that also doubled as a small headshop. When I told him about my addiction issues he recommended it to me. Being an addict I didn’t want to listen to him. He gave me some and I tried it. However, I had also taken a handful of Vicodin a few hours prior so the kratom did nothing for me. I wrote it off for the next year. Biggest mistake I ever made because that next year was one of the worst of my life. After I had been using kratom from the same vendor for about a year, I decided to branch out and see what else was out there. I found a forum that was moderated by very intelligent and helpful people. Since then I’ve tried to become very active in the online community and offer any advice that I can.

Me: I found it on the internet, looking for a natural remedy to opiate withdrawal. I think I typed specifically "Withdrawal help" and an old thread on a popular forum popped right up. There wasn't much information on it, but it sparked my curiosity for sure. As soon as I thought it could help, I spent a whole day in front of the computer wishing I could order some right that instance. Nobody knew what it was, and my husband was slightly opposed to it - but only because he didn't actually know what it was. We decided together, on the day that I had my last pain pill, that I was going to give it a real go and buy some kratom. Best thing to ever happen to us and our family.

Me: What strains and/or vein colors were most helpful to you? Which ones do you use now to treat what?

Mr. K: I don’t have my own particular strain that I use. I’ve learned that I have to mix it up regularly or else the effects aren’t there. Different strains from different vendors all affect me different. I don’t pick up on all of the little nuances that some people do in their pretentious reviews. A particular strain will either work for me or it won’t. Right now I am enjoying the Green Malaysian and Malaysian Maeng Da from Sacred Plant Life. I typically use the green in the morning and the Maeng Da later in the day. Both of them keep my IBS in check, but the green has a more energetic bump to it. The way I’ve usually done it though is greens or white during the day and reds and Maeng Dasin the evening. But I’ve also heard of it being the opposite of other people. Borneos and Malaysians seem to work the best for me. But I have had some Indos. I do have lower back problems that occurred through 20 years of bass playing and lugging around heavy equipment. I never lifted it like I should. I also have problems from sitting at a desk for the past 7 years. Going to a chiropractor and taking kratom has helped my back considerably. With the exception of being a little overweight, I would say that I currently feel better than I have in years. 

Me: Myself, I'm partial to the greens and whites during the day. Mixes of both work well, even a little red with one of those is helpful for my pain without being too sedating. Reds at night, all the way. If I'm up writing late, then I'll have me a little green vein with my red, but that's on occasion. I'm a big fan of Thai Maeng Da, White Borneo, and Green Malay during the day, the Malaysian Maeng Da, Red Thai, or Green Borneo for evening, and Red Borneo, Red Horn, or a Red Bali for night. I've also got a little bit of the Red Maeng Da in crushed leaf form that I use for a night time tea. If I had to pick a favorite for my pain relief, I just wouldn't be able to do it. My favorite strain changes all the time, I'll take a few strains for a couple weeks straight, and change it up and then do it all over again!

Me: If you had one thing to say to people who don't know about kratom, or to people who are thinking about trying it, what would it be?

Mr. K: Do a little research, along with trial and error. One of the main things I’ve learned about kratom is everybody is effected by it differently. If you’re getting into it, look around for what people with your problems have tried. You might find two people burning kratom for lower back pain but one uses a Premium Red Indo and the other uses a Green Borneo. Try them both and try others. Most vendors offer sample or starter packs. For my opiate withdrawal, any kratom seems to help with that. Some more than others but they all work. But if you’re looking for more specific help with conditions like back pain, anxiety, depression, relaxation and so on you’re going to have to experiment. I also recommend keeping a few different strains around. Myself and many others agree that if you burn the same strain for too long it will lose its effectiveness. I’ll burn White Vein Borneo in the morning for 2 weeks and then switch to a Green Borneo or Green Malaysian for 2 weeks after that. I try to repeat that. For evenings I’ll do a Red Vein Borneo for 2 weeks and then switch it to a Maeng Da of some sort. I’ll also keep extracts around as a supplement. I try not to burn straight extract as I can see those being a problem for someone like me with addiction issues. But if I’m having a bad day back or IBS wise, I’ll sprinkle a little extract in with my plain leaf burn. One of my favorites is UEI with Malaysian Maeng Da. 

Me: That's a great point, Mr. K. It is very important to try each strain for yourself to judge which ones will work best for you. Like most, I'm a bit of a "kratom snob", and I'm picky half the time about my vendors and what kratom I'll buy from who. I'd also like to add, that nobody should get discouraged over a strain that doesn't work well or even if the first time you don't notice the effects. There is a strain out there for almost everyone, and it's important to try a few before you give kratom the thumbs down. As much as I hate to admit it, kratom isn't for everyone. But most people will find a few strains and vein colors that work great for them and I encourage experimenting with your dose as well. It may just be a little tweaking to the amount or a different blend that'll end up doing the trick. But hey, you'll never know if you don't try!

Me: Anything else that you would like to add to this entry? Especially for the newbies out there?

Mr. K: I have some recommendations for someone making the switch from opiates to kratom. It took me awhile to get it done but I’ve figured out what worked for me. One thing I’ve noticed and others have commented is that you want to wait until you’re in full blown withdrawals before burning kratom. You’ll also want to working in a very strict and disciplined taper with it or else you’re just kicking the can down the road as far as withdrawals go. When I first made the switch I didn’t allow for any real time in between my last opiate use and first kratom burn. My first order lasted me for two weeks. I figured that would be enough and once I was out I wouldn’t need it again. Lo and behold I was completely wrong. I had my last kratom burn on a Sunday evening. By mid-afternoon the next day I was in full blown withdrawal again. This unfortunately led to me using again until I could get another order of kratom in. It ended up taking me a few months, but I got it down and now have a decent maintenance schedule. If I stop burning kratom, I will have some withdrawals for sure. But the discomfort level is a fraction of what I would deal with had I been taking opiates too. I also caution against extracts. Some people jump straight to extracts which might help out first as their tolerance can be very high. But if you stick with extracts you’ll possibly end up just trading one costly addiction for another.  

Me: I, myself, warn against frequent extract use. Not for any serious reason, but for me, my tolerance to plain leaf goes right up and it's hard to just straight switch back to plain leaf again. I actually notice more tolerance issues if I don't switch plain leaf strains often though. But I do want to say when used very sparingly, extracts added to plain leaf may help with a pain spike, or per say, an arthritis flare - like the one I'm having right now! I also want to say that spacing out doses is key, obviously the less you take and less often, the better it is. Because Mr. K is right, if you abruptly stop, you will deal with some discomfort. Some, more than others, but most people feel tired and cranky without their kratom if used too often. Personally, that's all I experience, but it's different for everyone. Know your body, and know your body's cues. Take a break when needed!

 I hope I have answered some questions and given somebody out there the bravery to give kratom a try for opiate withdrawal. While there's a few naysayers out there, kratom could help some folks that are desperately seeking relief and could even stave off the drug cravings that keep us going back for more, and in my opinion, could potentially save lives. Even if you feel that your opiate pain medications aren't working as well as they use to, consider kratom as an all-natural and less adictive and damaging alternative.

Peace, Love, and Kratom,



I would also like to point out a few things before I end this post. Everything in this post is anecdotal only and I wrote it because it was my personal experience after 8 months of using kratom to treat my pain. I am NOT a doctor or health professional, nor am I a practitioner of any kind. My advice is absolutely no substitute for your doctor, practitioner, or primary care provider's advice or directions. I don't know everything and I have had no actual medical training to speak of. I am not insinuating that kratom is a cure of any kind and you should be aware that in the United States, kratom is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat, mitigate, cure, or diagnose any ailments or physical condition, nor is it approved for human consumption or regulated in any way. Kratom is illegal in some states or has an age requirement written into the local law. Some countries outside of the U.S. do in fact regulate kratom either for prescription or it is illegal al together and it is your responsibility to know the legality of kratom in your area. Do not try kratom based on my recommendation alone, do your own research and make your own decisions. You are releasing the writer and/or owner of this blog of any legal liability if you decide to purchase kratom.

Thank you - C.A.L., Co-Author for   

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kratom Seized: Everybody In The Kratom Community Is Up In Arms

 At the end of September, we received a shockingly low-blow by the FDA. There is a warehouse in Southern California that contained 25,000 pounds of kratom, and the U.S. Marshals snatched all of it. I've seen a lot of worry from the kratom community since this event, and I'd like to give my take on this. Even if I can answer some of your questions, you'll still be in awe at the audacity of the U.S. Government. 

 Sadly, the FDA is, in my opinion, continuing a serious temper tantrum aimed at the very gentle herb, kratom, beginning late this winter. Between the FDA Import alert 54-15 at the end of February (Apparently updated in June) and all of the negative media and propaganda, they have been on a mission to spread their smear campaign and at this point, there's no end in sight. Yes, that's right folks - the FDA has struck again! 

 Let's just get this out of the way - the FDA seized the kratom because the people selling it claimed on the company website that it could be useful for things like opiate withdrawal. Because kratom isn't approved by FDA for human use or to treat anything, it seems to be a big deal to say that it may, possibly, assist in alleviating symptoms of any ailment you may be suffering from. Right now, just about every vendor has a disclaimer on their websites and product packaging saying something like "Not For Human Consumption", or even "Seller Makes No Claims..." because of the war the FDA has mounted on kratom. According to Natural Products Insider, any other claims on kratom make it a drug (or even a new dietary ingredient). So with all of that in mind, a judge issued a warrant to seize the 25,000 pounds of kratom because the FDA alleged that this specific company was selling their kratom as an unapproved drug.

 With this most recent kratom crisis, it reminds me of the many stories we've been bombarded with just in the past year. We've seen the same regurgitation of quotes on several media websites since the import alert was published, but there's one that always sticks with me: "FDA has noticed an increase in the number of shipments..." which makes me wonder - if they noticed them before and believed that kratom was not "reasonably expected to be safe...", increase in shipments or not, why didn't they put out import alerts and insist on raiding warehouses then? It's a pretty good question. Another instance I feel compelled to point out, is if you take a really good look at the import alert issued at the end of February, you'd notice that the FDA contradict themselves by quoting all sorts of symptoms and just how dangerous kratom is, and then saying that they don't really know enough about it - all in one paragraph. Very inconsistent, these folks at the FDA. Interesting, eh?  

 What does this mean for other vendors and kratom users? Well, at this point it seems that vendors just need to be careful of the words they use when promoting kratom products on their websites. I'm not saying that even then our kratom vendors will be completely safe, but if they at least follow the rules they should be able to stay under the agency's radar for now. But be aware that your vendor may one day suddenly find themselves having problems receiving timely shipments, which isn't really a rare occurrence now. I've been told by a few vendors that since the import alert was published they've had late shipments because their orders were stuck in customs for an insane amount of time before being cleared.  

 I don't blame the kratom community for being alarmed with all of the moves against kratom lately, but panic is rather unproductive in this instance. I would suggest doing things that may help the cause, like contacting the Botanical Legal Defense to find out how to help them, educate the people you know about kratom or pass out fliers with information on kratom, and to contact your local and state government, especially if there is a proposed bill for law on kratom legality. Now, when I say "contact your local and state government", I don't mean let your feelings out all at once. As my Dad used to say, that would impede progress. If you decide to write a letter or email, do it when you are calm, cool, and collected. I know it's hard not to get upset and take your feelings out on someone who has the power to kill your hopes, but focus for kratom's sake. Be reasonable and courteous, sound educated, and get your point across without sounding overly emotional. Government representatives of all forms listen and react better if you don't sound hostile and aggressive. Now, don't be discouraged if you don't get a letter back, these guys are pretty busy sometimes. Just save your letter and repeat in a few weeks in case you don't get a response, the squeaky wheel always get the grease at some point. 

 I sincerely hope we can all find ways of doing our part, and that vendors will be able to safely promote and sell their kratom one day. If we all just pitch in, we'll make a difference and our voices will be heard, loud and clear.

Peace and Kratom,