What is an opioid and what is its connection to the herbal extract kratom? This is a question that comes up a lot, especially when people are talking about opioid addiction. To understand how these two different substances connect, you have to learn more about them, including how each one works and what the dangers are.
What Is An Opioid? | What You Need To Know
In this article:
- The Opioid Crisis
- What is an Opioid?
- How Do Opioids Work?
- What Is Kratom?
- How are Opioids and Kratom Alike?
- Is Kratom Medicine?
The Opioid Crisis
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling the recent rise in overdoses an opioid crisis in this country. According to the CDC, the number of deaths related to opioid use was five times higher in 2016 than it was in 1999. It is estimated that around 115 people die each day of an overdose. Does kratom factor into this growing problem and, if so, how?
What is an Opioid?
The term opioid refers to some drugs that are used in medicine and illegal street drugs like heroin. There are two words to consider when talking about this type of drug: opioid and opiate. Although often used interchangeably, they are different. Technically, a drug is an opiate if it is derived from resin found in an opium poppy, like morphine.
The word opioid is a broader term that covers opiates plus semi-synthetic and synthetic medications like hydrocodone and fentanyl. Both forms of this drug category are used in medicine for pain relief and sometimes other problems like to control a cough. Narcotic is another word often used interchangeably with opioids, too.
How Do Opioids Work?
Both prescription opioids and street drugs have the same basic mechanism. In other words, they all pretty much work the same but to varying degrees. They bind to opioid receptors in the brain and other areas of the body to produce an anesthetic effect. This is why they are good options for pain relief.
The downside to opioids is the risk of addiction. Opioids also stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain, which is a fancy way of saying they make you feel good. With each use, though, you get more used to it and need a higher dose to get the same results. People who use opioids regularly build up a tolerance to the drug’s effect, so they are always chasing that first high because the ones after it are never as good. After a while, the body starts to depend on the drug and thus develop an opioid addiction.
What Is Kratom?
Kratom is made from a plant called Mitragyna speciosa. It is found in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and other areas of Southern Asia. The Mitragyna speciosa plant is an evergreen tree that is part of the coffee family. Like opiates, people have been using kratom for decades to control their pain and because it makes them feel good, similar to an opioid.
Unlike opioids, though, kratom is not an approved drug in this country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that there is no proof that kratom has any benefit. That doesn’t keep people from using it to get high, though, or using it for chronic pain management. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists it as a drug of concern because it is abused.
The most common use of this herb is to mix it into a drink or with codeine cough syrup to enhance the high. In Thailand, it is served as a drink called 4×100. Not regulated in the US the same way as opioids, you can find kratom in places that sell nutritional supplements or in tobacco shops.
In February 2018, the FDA also said that there is proof that kratom has some opioid compounds in it, which could be a reason why some people abuse it. One scientific analysis found kratom did have opioid properties. The FDA plans to look closer at how it works and the risks that come with abusing kratom.
How are Opioids and Kratom Alike?
Kratom is not considered an opioid but it does act on the opioid receptors in much the same way. At one time, all opioids came from a poppy plant but that has changed over the years. Today, many come from other substances like coal tar, so they are not true opiates, either. In low doses, kratom works like a stimulant but, when taken in a higher dose, it is a sedative just like most opioids.
Also unlike opioids, there aren’t overdoses directly associated with this herbal compound. The same isn’t true about opioids.
Is Kratom Medicine?
It has been used that way for many years because it can help manage pain, but it is not considered medicine. There is some talk about using kratom to help ease the symptoms of opioid withdrawal but there is no proof that it works. Bottom line, you should see a doctor and discuss methods to manage pain.
Knowing what is opioids and how kratom works help you identify the difference between the two. The former causes various problems with your health while the other is a natural pain reliever.
Share what you know about the difference between opioids kratom below.
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