KRATOM ADDICTION – IS IT A THING?
First, I believe it is important to define what addiction is because all too often I hear people using the terms “addiction” and “physical dependence” to mean the same thing. Addiction and physical dependence are similar in some ways, but there is a difference.
According to the NIH and the National Institute on Drug Addiction, there is a difference between dependence and addiction and it is crucial that the general public, friends and family of those suffering from Substance Abuse Disorders as well as policy makers, understand this difference.
What’s the difference between physical dependence and addiction?
Addiction—or compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences—is characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance and withdrawal. The latter reflect physical dependence in which the body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect (tolerance) and eliciting drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased (withdrawal). Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugs—including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed. Thus, physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction. This distinction can be difficult to discern, particularly with prescribed pain medications, for which the need for increasing dosages can represent tolerance or a worsening underlying problem, as opposed to the beginning of abuse or addiction.
Kratom for Opiate Addiction
It is often argued that people who take kratom to manage opiate addiction are just “trading one drug for another.” But what we have to ask ourselves is this: is the individual who is taking kratom to ease the symptoms of opiate withdrawal actually addicted? Or are they simply physically dependent?
It is important to distinguish these two things because as any doctor or chronic pain patient will tell you, people who deal with relentless, daily, agonizing pain are going to be dependent on some type of medication for their rest of their lives – barring a miracle of God.
It follows then that if a person is legitimately taking opiates prescribed by a physician and then gets cut off, that person will not be able to obtain the relief they need in order to tolerate daily activities, including work, school, sports, family obligations, etc.
It is important to be connected with other people and when you live with chronic pain, it can be easy to become a recluse. Many people report feeling more sociable when they consume kratom – exactly in the way we become more sociable after a cup of coffee.
About a year ago I remember reading a short but sweet article on the CATO Institute website, written by Jeffrey Miron that I would like to share with you.
Is Addiction a Problem? The Case of Kratom
By JEFFREY MIRON
A standard argument for outlawing drugs is that such substances are “addictive.” As a matter of science, this claim is often over-stated: using alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, or heroin a few times does NOT generate physiological or psychological dependence; such effects kick in only after repeated, long-term use (and even then, far from universally). That said, all these substances – and many more – can indeed be addictive.
But a crucial question is: so what? Take the caffeine example. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe – perhaps billions – are addicted to tea, coffee, or diet coke, yet few consider this an issue for health or policy. Why? Because long-term, heavy use of caffeine does not seem to have major undesired side effects. Indeed, much of the world celebrates its coffee and tea habit, praising the culinary enjoyment and social interaction that accompanies or even arises from this addiction.
So for those who believe government should ban “harmful products,” the question should not be whether a substance is addictive but whether long-term, heavy use harms health, productivity, or other aspects of life. I will not discuss this issue here for alcohol, tobacco, or heroin, other than to suggest that the two substances with the worst sides effects from regular use (cirrhosis for alcohol and lung cancer for cigarettes) are currently legal while heroin, with much less obvious or dramatic side effects, is not. So much for rational public policy.
Now that we have all the technical details out of the way, let’s talk about kratom. Many people who have only heard of kratom in passing, on the internet (such as discussion boards like Bluelight) and they repeat the information they read or hear without checking it for accuracy.
It’s easy to forget that every day, millions of Americans consume sugar in the form of soda pop, cakes, candies and cookies. Our convenience stores are loaded with junk food that line the aisles in colorful packaging. We see commercials on the tv which advertise cereal such as Cap’n Crunch and Fruity Pebbles. There’s bagels, hot dogs and even ketchup. Sugar is hidden in almost everything we eat. And some of us consume far too much and become both overweight and diabetic.
Now, if someone is diabetic and obese, but continues to consume candy, cola and cookies knowing full well that it will only make them sicker, and they disregard their doctor’s advice to eat a whole food’s diet (like salad and salmon, for example) that behavior meets the definition of addiction. Why? Because they are experiencing negative outcomes (diabetes) yet they continue the behavior that caused the diabetes in the first place.
On the flip side of that, many people have come to realize that sugar isn’t harmless and have tried to quit.
Have you ever felt the pain of sugar withdrawal? How about quitting dairy? Or gluten? Each of these foods has their own particular type of withdrawal syndrome because each of them binds to opioid receptors in the brain just like opiates used in medicine for the relief of pain.
No, I’m not making this up.
Dairy products contain caesomorphins.
It has been demonstrated that modern wheat has a “high opioid-like activity” from wheat gluten hydrolysates. (Source)
Sugar binds to opioid and dopamine receptors in the brain in the same way drugs of abuse do. (Source)
And coffee contains protein fragments that bind to mu-opioid receptors. (Source)
SEVEN DAYS WITHOUT GRAINS, SUGAR, COFFEE & DAIRY CHALLENGE
Often, some policy makers and even doctors argue that kratom is a “dangerous drug” that should either be avoided or banned outright. These people forget that there are plenty of substances in our current food supply that a person could potentially either become addicted to or physically dependent on.
To illustrate what I’m saying, I challenge you to try an experiment at home for seven days.
Instead of getting up and eating cereal or toast or a bagel or a donut or whatever product you eat that contains gluten, opt for eggs and tomatoes with an avocado instead. Don’t have any coffee and don’t have any dairy or sugar either. Wait about 24-48 hours and then come back and tell me how you feel.
Withdrawal from gluten, sugar, wheat and or dairy can feel almost identical (except less severe) to opiate withdrawal. And, I’m willing to bet the farm that by day 3 you’d be foaming at the mouth at the first sight of the Pizza Hut delivery boy or a glazed chocolate donut. It happens.
And before you say “I’m not robbing anyone for a donut” think about this. If donuts or any other sweet food causes you to become so overweight that you can’t stand up and walk without a cane, can’t participate in activities with you kids, or you are diabetic or have heart disease from poor diet, then it is actually having a very detrimental effect on the rest of society. The economic impact from lost wages due to chronic illness related to poor diet is astounding.
If you’re not up for that challenge, just try going a day or two without coffee and you’ll see what I mean. In fact, most people don’t realize that coffee causes severe psychological and physical dependence. But it’s socially acceptable, so, who cares, right?
Withdrawals from coffee SUCK. And withdrawals from kratom are actually, in my experience, much easier to deal with than going a day without coffee.
Perhaps you could try and not drink coffee or eat any gluten and eliminate sugar and dairy all on the same day. Keep notes in a journal about how you feel. Then, think carefully about what you are choosing to put in your body to manage your pain.
WHY CHOOSE KRATOM?
In the end, it is a highly personal decision and I am not qualified to give anyone medical advice. I can only ask you to consider these questions.
What happens if you lose your job? Your health insurance? Or your spouse loses his job? How would you pay for those doctor visits? What is going to happen when they cut you off your meds suddenly or you can’t afford them or maybe there is a storm (maybe a hurricane or a tornado) and the pharmacy isn’t open?
These are all highly probable situations in today’s day and age. Think about how utterly dependent you are on the system.
Now tell me, wouldn’t you rather depend on a plant you can grow yourself? And if you can’t grow it, at least you can buy it cheaply and save all the time you spend sitting in a doctor’s office and spend it doing things you love instead.
SOME THOUGHTS ON SUGAR ADDICTION:
“You sprinkle it on your cereal. Add it to your morning cup of coffee. Lovingly bake it into your children’s birthday cakes…Then it’s hidden in most processed foods—from bologna to pretzels to Worcestershire sauce to cheese spread. Even most infant formulas contain it,” says Dr. Mercola on his website.
I’m talking about sugar, of course, and to put it all into perspective, based on USDA estimates the average American consumes 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, which equates to about TWO TONS of sugar during a lifetime.”
When you eat sugar it triggers production of your brain’s natural opioids — a key ingredient in the addiction process. Your brain essentially becomes addicted to stimulating the release of its own opioids as it would to morphine or heroin.
“Why we eat this much sugar is not difficult to understand — it tastes good, and it gives us pleasure by triggering an innate process in your brain via dopamine and opioid signals,” he continues.
What it is doing to us on both a physical and emotional level is another story entirely, and when you delve beneath the surface even slightly you’ll begin to see that eating sugar may not only be making you unhealthy but also unhappy.”
Furthermore, Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, in The Atlantic writes:
“… the war on drugs has taken a back seat, but not because it has been won. Rather, because a different war has cluttered the headlines — the war on obesity. And a substance even more insidious, I would argue, has supplanted cocaine and heroin. The object of our current affliction is sugar. Who could have imagined that something so innocent, so delicious, so irresistible — just one glucose molecule (not so sweet) plus one fructose molecule (very sweet) — could propel America toward economic deterioration and medical collapse?”
So, next time you balk at food addiction, remember this: it has just as much if not more of an economic impact on our society in terms of sick days, lost wages and going to an early grave – just. like. addiction.
“At an individual level, obesity imposes costs by limiting personal opportunity in many ways, only some of which can be quantified. In the workplace (assuming the obese are employed, which they may not be, due in part to their condition), costs are borne by employers due to lost productivity, absences, underperformance, and higher insurance premia, which in the aggregate are quite large. Finally, obesity affects expenditures by local, state, and national governments, where programs compensate for or cover some of the private and workforce costs of illness and unemployment.” (SOURCE)
So, before you go bashing kratom for being “addictive” stop for a moment and ask yourself this:
If you are a chronic pain patient and must take something to manage the pain, then it’s likely you’ll be on something for the rest of your life. That’s a lot of money and time and energy we’re spending on the never ending merry go round of chronic pain.
I wanted off. I chose kratom.
MY BODY. MY CHOICE.
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