How Long Does Withdrawal From Kratom Last?

Kratom is an herbal supplement made from the leaves of a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa). It is grown and cultivated throughout Southeast Asia.

Kratom contains powerful alkaloids that have stimulating, pain-relieving, and mood-altering effects on the brain. It has also been used by some to relieve the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Over the past few years, kratom use has increased in the United States. Longer term use can result in dependence and withdrawal from kratom isn’t always easy. Here is everything you need to know about withdrawal symptoms, your timeline, and how to get help.

Overview

While Kratom use in Asia goes back hundreds of years, it is a relative newcomer to the Western world. At this point, doctors and scientists are learning more about its effects on the human body, both positive and negative. Frequently cited positive effects include pain relief, relaxation, improved mood, and increased energy. Common negative effects, however, include tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.

The results of a recent online survey found that kratom users in the United States tend to be middle-aged, middle-income people living with pain.

Most of the over 8,000 survey respondents said that they were using kratom to treat pain or improve their mood. A smaller, but significant, number said they were using it to help them quit opioids or treat opioid withdrawal. Whatever your reason for turning to kratom, you should know that it isn’t the magic solution some people claim it is.

According to FDA research, kratom is an agonist that binds to the mu-opioid receptors. This is the same part of the brain that is activated when you take opioids, like prescription pain killers or heroin. This means that kratom is, essentially, a natural opioid. Like all opioids, it comes with a risk of tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.

Kratom withdrawal resembles opioid withdrawal, although it is typically shorter and less intense.

Reports show that the withdrawal experience is different for everyone, with many people experiencing no symptoms at all.

Survey data found that only about 9 percent of respondents reported withdrawal symptoms. Most of these people described their symptoms as a level two on a scale of one to five, where one is the most severe and five is the mildest. Frequently cited symptoms include fatigue, cravings, tremors, and muscle aches.

Signs and Symptoms

Using advanced computer modeling, the FDA came to the conclusion that kratom contains opioid compounds. Opioid withdrawal is, of course, notoriously difficult. Kratom withdrawal appears to be less severe, shorter, and less common. Whereas pretty much anyone taking traditional opioids for an extended period of time will experience withdrawal when they stop their dose, withdrawal symptoms seem to appear in a much smaller portion of kratom users. 

Research suggests that people taking large doses of kratom several times per day are more likely to experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms than more moderate users.

A study of heavy users in Malaysia who self-identified as “dependent” on kratom, found that 65 percent experienced mild withdrawal symptoms and 35 percent experienced moderate to severe symptoms. This is considerably more than the 9 percent of Unites States-based survey respondents who reported withdrawal symptoms. This may have something to do with differences in patterns of use or daily doses.

Commonly cited kratom withdrawal symptoms include:

  • muscle aches
  • insomnia
  • fatigue
  • cravings
  • nausea or vomiting
  • cramping
  • tremor
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • diarrhea
  • sweating
  • watering eyes
  • runny nose
  • hot flashes
  • restless legs 

According to the U.S. and Malaysian surveys, symptoms of kratom withdrawal typically appear within 12 to 48 hours of your last dose. Symptoms typically disappear within 3 days.

Anecdotal reports suggest that some heavy kratom users suffer from what's known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS happens to some people after withdrawal from a variety of substances. People tend to experience depression, anxiety, and insomnia that comes and goes in waves. It may be a few weeks or months before you feel like yourself again.

Coping and Relief

Kratom withdrawal can be difficult for some people. When it comes to quitting kratom, you have two options. One is to quit cold turkey. The other is to slowly taper down your dose.

Tapering means taking progressively smaller and less frequent doses over the course of several weeks. Some people prefer a gentle tapering strategy, but others want to get withdrawal over with as quickly as possible. Whatever you decide to do, there are ways to make withdrawal more tolerable.

Here are a few tips to ease the pain of kratom withdrawal:

  • Talk to your doctor. Explain the situation to your doctor and tell them you expect symptoms similar to opioid withdrawal. Your doctor may prescribe detox medications that can help alleviate problems such as anxiety and nausea.
  • Try OTC medications. There are several medications available over-the-counter that can help treat the symptoms of kratom withdrawal. Examples include anti-diarrheals, sleep aids, and pain relievers.
  • Take a shower. Kratom withdrawal leaves some people feeling depressed and exhausted. A shower can help boost your mood, increase your energy, and soothe your aching muscles.
  • Go for a walk. Many people have found that exercise, even a brief walk outside, can relieve some of the discomforts. It’s a great way to distract yourself from cravings and work out excess tension.
  • Keep busy. It may be tempting to take a few days off work and avoid your friends, but keeping busy may be just what you need to get through the worst of it.
  • Remember why you’re quitting. It can help to write down the top reasons why you want to stop using kratom. Keep this list handy and refer to it when cravings hit.

    Warnings

    Kratom withdrawal isn’t dangerous. In most cases, it is mild, like a bad cold. Unless you have special medical needs, withdrawing at home should be fine.

    If you are pregnant, talk to your OB-GYN about your kratom use as soon as possible. There is a case study in the medical literature about an infant born in kratom withdrawal.

    If you have struggled with drug abuse, talk with a doctor before quitting kratom. If you have been using kratom to help you get off opioids, then you are at risk of relapse. Due to changing tolerance levels, opioid relapses can be very dangerous.

    Taking kratom instead of opioids may be a type of harm reduction strategy. While scientists still have a lot to learn about kratom, it may be safer than both prescription and illegal opioids. When people overdose on opioids, it is because the drug causes them to stop breathing. Kratom, even in large doses, does not appear to affect the respiratory system. This means that kratom, on its own, is unlikely to cause a fatal overdose.

    As with any opiate problem, ask your doctor for a prescription for Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal drug, before you quit kratom.

    Long-Term Treatment

    If you were using kratom to self-medicate a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD, you should consider making an appointment with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional. You may find that a combination of therapy and prescription medication helps you manage your symptoms much better than kratom ever did.

    Resources

    If you are going through kratom withdrawal or are planning to quit, it may be helpful to reach out to other people who have been where you are.

    There are several active online discussion boards on Reddit that you may find helpful, including r/kratom, which has over 61,000 members and r/quittingkratom, which has about 7,000. Both are filled with helpful information. Some users post updates daily about their quest to quit kratom.

    Just remember that this population is not indicative of the general public—people are unlikely to post about not having dependence or withdrawal symptoms. In other words, people with dramatic or traumatic stories are disproportionately represented.  

    A Word From Verywell

    Most people start using kratom with good intentions. They want a safe, natural way to treat pain and anxiety. And it may work for a while. But when kratom use starts to take over your life, you know it’s time to quit. Quitting may be a bit harder than you thought it was going to be, but it probably won’t get too bad. If you’re struggling, reach out for help.

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