Kratom: It’s Legal, but is it Safe?

images Kratom: Its Legal, but is it Safe?

Kratom is a tropical deciduous and evergreen tree in the coffee family native to Southeast Asia in the Indochina and Malisia floristic regions.  Its leaves are used for medicinal properties.  It is psychoactive, and leaves are chewed to uplift mood and to treat health problems.

Kratom is indigenous to Thailand yet it has been outlawed for 70 years. It was originally banned because it was reducing the Thai government’s tax revenue from opium distribution. Kratom and its derivatives have been used as a substitute for opium as well as an aid for the management of opium withdrawal.

Data on the incidence and prevalence of its use are lacking, as physicians are generally unfamiliar with it and its use is not detected by typical drug screening tests. Kratom metabolites can be detected by specialized mass spectrometer tests.  Incidence of Kratom use appears to  be on the rise among those who have been self-managing chronic pain with opioids purchased without a prescription and are cycling (but not quitting) their use.

As of 2011, there have been no formal trials performed to study the efficacy or safety of Kratom to treat opioid addiction.  The pharmacological effects of Kratom on humans are not well studied.  Its metabolic half-life protein binding and elimination characteristics are all unknown.  Kratom behaves as a u-opioid receptor agonist, similar to opiates like morphine, although its effects differ significantly from those of opiates.

Kratom does not appear to have significant adverse effects, and in particular appears not to cause the hypoventilation typical of other opioids.  Compulsive use has been reported among drug users who inject opioids, and those who use opioids to manage pain without direction from medical professionals.

The DEA warns the leaves from Kratom trees are widely available on the internet and sold as crushed leaves that can be smoked or steeped in tea. The kratom leaf is native to Southeast Asia. However, it’s banned there but it’s legal in the US, leaving several wondering why.

 The DEA says Kratom can lead to addiction.  At low doses users report alertness and energy and at high doses, the drug produces sedative effects. According to the DEA, there is no legitimate use for Kratom but they’re still conducting research on the possible dangers of using the drug.

 

Side effects associated with chronic Kratom use include  constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss and darkening of the skin color on the face.  Chronic use has been associated with bowel obstruction.  Chronic users have also reported withdrawal symptoms including irritability, runny nose and diarrhea.  Withdrawal is generally mild and short-lived, and may be treated with dihydrocodeine and lofexidine.

Three cases reported documented deaths involving kratom.  Other drugs were used in all cases and in one, Kratom was speculated to possibly be the primary cause of death.  In 1975, there was an isolated report of serious adverse effects such as psychosis, hallucinations, convulsions and confusion among five individuals who had used kratom daily for 10-35 years.

The N-Bomb

Every few months it seems that a new drug becomes popular in the mainstream media. Usually, this is a result of hospitalizations and even deaths of those who chose to use the drug. Right now, a new hallucinogen is being sold across the USA. It’s called the N-bomb. It’s a synthetic drug that is similar to LSD or mescaline. The extent of the damage caused by this newer drug is unknown; however it’s already proved to be deadly.

nbomb 300x168 The N Bomb

There are new types of hallucinogens, similar to the N-bomb drugs, which have been banned by the U.S. government. These new drugs are more than just a “new trend” and for many families it’s something that has had a great impact on their lives. This article describes in detail how one teenager died after taking a synthetic drug which was believed to be the N-Bomb. Three teenage brothers and a family friend set out to obtain marijuana and what they thought was LSD. Immediately after taking the drug the foursome all had bad reactions and everyone was taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, one of the teenagers died after he could not be resuscitated.

The federal government and some state governments have addressed some of the loopholes companies exploit in order to sell synthetic drugs in the U.S. However, due to wily drug manufacturers there are still multiple companies producing new synthetic drugs which are not banned. China is shipping thousands of pounds of chemicals to use in the production of synthetic drugs, according to this article. The article mentions that when one drug is made illegal another chemical compound is created and the drug is produced and shipped out, which is legal at the time of its creation. A DEA special agent was quoted in the article describing the situation akin to the game ‘whack-a-mole’.  He went on to say the companies continue producing new drugs because of the demand for it, at least until that specific chemical compound is banned in the USA. The article also focused on how some companies in China began producing the synthetic drugs and after seeing the demand other groups from other countries followed suit. Even the Chinese producers ramped up their production.

These new synthetic drugs are particularly dangerous because of their potency and their unknown effects. As soon as one chemical is banned, many more pop up in its place. This tactic might evade prohibition for a moment, but it opens up the possibility for many dangerous side effects from the hastily made concoctions. There is no telling what may occur after taking such drugs and often times the worst case scenario becomes reality. The possibility of severe adverse reactions and even death from taking these drugs far outweighs the quick high these drugs give the user.

Uncommon Drugs: Khat

istock 000015892897small 0 300x225 Uncommon Drugs: Khat

There are many plants and fungi on our planet that, when consumed, can cause many different euphoric or mood altering affects. Some of these plants and fungi are well known in the west. Some of these plants /fungi are drugs like psychedelic mushrooms, marijuana, opium, and even coca leaves from South America. These drugs are all fairly common. However, there are plenty of other plants found in nature that are not well known, but are widely abused.

For example, there is a shrub native to East Africa, Arabia, and parts of the Middle East. This shrub is called khat (pronounced ‘cot’) and it’s been used for centuries in Africa and Arabia. Khat has many adverse effects and has been declared by the  U.S. government to have no acceptable medical value, meaning that it’s classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Khat doesn’t grow in the USA, so we’re not as familiar with the drug. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) does provide some information on their website about khat.

According to the NIDA website, khat is classified as a Schedule I drug because of the mind-altering chemicals found in it. Those chemicals (cathinone and cathine) are similar to amphetamines, although they are less potent. Nonetheless, khat is a stimulant which releases stress hormones and norepinephrine, both of which raise the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that is used to regulate pleasure and movement.

Khat produces a euphoric high along with feelings of alertness and arousal. After using khat, the user may experience a depressed mood, irritability, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping. These effects usually last for a few hours, but sometimes the effects can last all day. A person consumes khat by chewing the leaves and holding them in their cheeks. Khat is similar to chewing tobacco in this way. How prevalent is khat around the world? One study estimated that there are over 10 million users of the drug. In Yemen, 82% of men and 43% of women admited to using khat at least once. Unfortunately, there are no reliable statistics available to estimate the prevalence of the drug in the U.S. or even in Europe. Long-term khat use can negatively affect the body leading to tooth decay, inflammation of the stomach, ulcers, increased risk of tumors, irregular heart beat, and even heart attacks.

Khat is known to be addictive and it may even be chemically addictive. Some people have reported withdrawal symptoms when they quit using khat. Some people experienced trembling, depression, and even nightmares when they quit. Khat presents many pitfalls for anyone who abuses it and uses it for its high, while ignoring the long term physical and psychological damage that the drug can cause.

Peyote

peyote PeyoteThere are many different substances in the world which, when taken by a human, can have mind-altering effects. Some of these substance are common drugs like cocaine, alcohol, and LSD. There are also uncommon substances from plants, fungi, and even animals which can produce the same effects as the more common street drugs.

In the past, different cultures found and used these substances for medical, recreational, and even religious purposes. Many of these cultures were familiar with the specific effects of these substances, and they found a number of different uses for them. One of these such substances is peyote, which contains the psychedelic substance mescaline. Peyote is found in cacti in the southwest U.S. and northern Mexico. Although classified as a Schedule II drug by the USA, peyote has been used by Native American tribes for religious purposes during ceremonies. Peyote is seen as a spiritual drug, so recreational use is not widespread or very common. Native Americans have the right to use peyote in religious ceremonies and this right has been protected by the US Federal government since 1965, with another 28 states enacting similar laws to work in conjunction with the federal laws. These laws allows peyote to be used by Native American religious practitioners, but the laws lack true uniformity. This has created some barriers to transportation and use of peyote in different areas by different Native American tribes.

Previous USA court rulings found that the First Amendment does not completely protect Native American practitioners who use peyote. This is another barrier to its supposed protection under federal laws. Peyote can be consumed in a number of different ways. It’s often cut into disc-shaped buttons that are cut from the roots and dried before being chewed or soaked in water to produce the liquid containing mescaline. The dosage of mescaline is about one third to one half of a gram and its effects may last up to 12 hours. Another method of preparing the drug is to prepare it as a tea to counter its bitter taste.

Peyote has been used in North America for hundreds of years by Native Americans. However, its long term effects on the body are poorly understood because very little research has been done on this drug as compared to other drugs. Although no long term psychological or cognitive harm has been observed in Native Americans who use peyote, this does not indicate the same will hold true for those who abuse the drug repeatedly for recreational purposes. Side effects of peyote are very similar to the effects of taking LSD. Some of the effects of taking peyote include increased body temperature, heart rate, uncoordinated movements, sweating, and skin flushing. It’s difficult to pinpoint the rate of use of peyote, however there are millions of people in the USA and in the world who take advantage of hallucinogens. If peyote becomes more widely available as a popular drug of choice, we may see a decrease in laws which protect its use in a spiritual context.

Krokodil

Note: Krokodil causes extreme skin disfigurements which may be disturbing for some people. There are no pictures of krokodil users in this post.

Every couple of years there is a new drug trend which grows and grows until it’s picked up by the mainstream media. Krokodil (pronounced like crocodile) is one of these drugs – it’s a synthetic heroin. According to the International Journal of Drug Policy, Krokodil is a mixture of psychoactive drugs which are often used in Russia and other surrounding countries. However, the drug’s effects last about 90 minutes – much shorter than the effects of heroin. The most striking effects of krokodil include skin infections, discoloration, and scaly skin which looks like crocodile skin, hence the name krokodil.

Although the half-life of krokodil is short compared to other opioids, its harmful effects are immediate and very severe. One popular drug info website has a story about krokodil and its recent appearance in the US, particularly in the Chicago area. One 25 year-old female said she had been abusing heroin for 10 years, however she was admitted to a Chicago hospital after abusing krokodil for only one month.

krokodil 300x205 KrokodilKrokodil started getting popular in Russia about 10 years ago and the average life expectancy of someone who abuses krokodil is about two years. Russia has close to 2 million users as of 2008. Russian media reports estimate up to 5% of drug users may be injecting krokodil. People who abuse krokodil will suffer the very negative and harmful effects including gangrene, tissue death, and infections with possible neurological, endocrine organ damage. These side effects are commonly associated with heavy chemicals and metals poisoning, which are present in the production of krokodil. The ingredients used to produce krokodil are pictured below.

Krokodil is a terrifying drug with horrific side effects. Not much is known about this drug in the US because it is so new to our black market. However, we know it causes disgusting skin disfigurements and we know it puts people in the hospital very quickly. Krokodil is a frightening drug because not only does it destroy the body, but the lure of a cheap, homemade drug may prove too strong for those looking for a quick high.

While a number of different drugs rise and fall in popularity, addiction will remain the driving force behind the destructive behavior of drug abuse. If you or someone you love is abusing drugs, please don’t hesitate to call us at Inspirations for Youth and Families at (888) 757-6237.