Will Kratom Help You With Your Anxiety? (& How)
Some people tout kratom’s benefits as a treatment for anxiety. There is controversy surrounding use of the drug to treat anxiety-related issues.
A Snapshot of Kratom
Kratom has been increasingly marketed in recent years as a natural supplement that can promote calm and relaxation.
Kratom leaves can be dried and pressed into pills, brewed into tea, or eaten with food. Such products are legal and available for purchase online.
Controversy Surrounding the Safety of Kratom
Little scientific evidence exists to back up the use of kratom to promote calm. There is much controversy about the safety of kratom use.
Based on kratom’s association with multiple drug overdoses, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has raised many alarms about the safety of the drug, declaring it a dangerous opioid whose use must be closely monitored.
Supporters of kratom use, however, disagree with the claims of how dangerous it really is. Everyone agrees that kratom can produce opioid-like effects, but the strength and specific impact of these effects have yet to be settled.
The FDA insists that kratom is a dangerous drug with no medical purposes that poses the same risks of addiction and overdose as prescription opioids.
Scientists on the other side of the argument, however, do not recognize serious health risks posed by kratom and do not agree that it carries the same threat of overdose as prescription opioids. While kratom produces calming and relaxing effects like opioids when consumed in high doses, there is no evidence that shows it impacts breathing rate, which is the greatest danger associated with opioid overdose.
An Herbal Supplement
While the debate about the safety and efficacy of kratom for medical purposes continues, the drug is being marketed on the internet and elsewhere as an herbal supplement that can help address problems that include:
• Opioid withdrawal
One of the active ingredients in kratom, mitragynine, works like an opioid, promoting relaxation and reducing pain when taken in high doses. When taken in lower doses, the other active ingredient in kratom, 7-hydroxymitragynine, produces stimulant-like effects.
Traditionally, kratom has been used as a natural supplement to boost energy and reduce stress. More recently, however, the use of kratom has expanded to be applied as an alternative mode of pain relief and to manage symptoms of opioid withdrawal, such as muscle aches and mood changes.
Critics of kratom, however, argue that using it to manage opioid withdrawal is merely substituting one addictive substance for another.
Is Kratom a Viable Drug to Address Anxiety?
One of the traditional uses of kratom has been to relieve feelings of stress and promote calm, which is why many people have used kratom to self-treat anxiety. Kratom has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of anxiety, however, which it is why it can only be considered a dietary supplement.
Nonetheless, kratom may have beneficial effects for people struggling with anxiety. Like opioids, mitragynine interacts with opioid receptors in the brain, which transmit messages of calm and pain relief.
People who take kratom for their anxiety may be able to gain an overall sense of relaxation and reduced stressed. Likewise, the general promotion of good feelings may help people struggling with depression.
The real impact of kratom on people’s mood, however, has yet to be scientifically proven. One recent study on kratom use and mental health, though, found preliminary evidence that supports the use of kratom for certain mental health conditions. Highlights of the study include:
• Kratom can enhance mood and reduce anxiety for some people.
• Kratom has the potential to be a viable harm reduction technique for people who want to quit using opioids.
• Kratom dependence and withdrawal are typically mild compared to those associated with traditional opioids.
• There are mental health risks and benefits associated with kratom use that warrant further study.
Risks of Use
Although kratom is primarily considered to be an herbal supplement, there are still risks associated with using it. Risks of use include health effects, dependence, addiction, and consumption of an unregulated product.
Health effects of kratom reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) include the following:
• Dry mouth
• Frequent urination
• Loss of appetite
One of the greatest risks associated with using kratom, other than experiencing the above side effects, is the potential for the product to be laced with other substances. Since kratom is not regulated by the FDA and has no approved medical purposes, kratom manufacturers are not held to any standards or regulations.
The few cases of kratom use that have sent people to the hospital involved kratom that was packaged as a dietary substance but laced with other dangerous compounds that proved to be fatal.
Kratom Addiction and Withdrawal
As a mind-altering substance, there is a potential to become addicted to kratom, and many users have reported developing a kratom use disorder. Very little is known yet about the exact manifestations of a kratom addiction, but some studies suggest that the drug is an addictive substance that is likely to cause withdrawal symptoms similar to what is seen with opioid withdrawal.
Possible symptoms of kratom withdrawal include the following:
• Muscle aches and pains
• Sleep problems, including insomnia
• Emotional changes
• Runny nose
• Jerky muscle movements
Alternatives for Managing Anxiety
If you are struggling with anxiety, it may be safest to try alternative methods for managing your symptoms before turning to kratom. Since so little is known about kratom, the risks still outweigh the benefits.
If you are looking for alternatives to manage your anxiety other than using prescription medications, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) offers helpful tips for how to manage anxiety and stress.
• Accept that you can’t control everything.
• Do your best and be proud of what you do accomplish.
• Maintain a positive attitude.
• Identify what triggers your anxiety.
• Limit alcohol and caffeine intake.
• Eat healthy well-balanced meals.
• Get enough sleep.
• Exercise daily.
• Take deep breaths.
• Pause and slowly count to 10.
• Give back to your community.
• Practice yoga, meditation, or whatever helps you take a timeout during the day.
• Talk to a mental health professional.
• Engage your support network of family and friends.
If you are dealing with anxiety, there are many methods available to help you manage your symptoms other than using prescription anti-anxiety medications or kratom.
While kratom appears to help some people reduce their anxiety, its widespread use and efficacy have not been confirmed, and there are still many risks associated with it. Speak with a mental health professional to identify the reasons for your anxiety. Then, maintain a healthy and active lifestyle that focuses on reducing stress and promoting mental health.
Can You Use Kratom for Depression and Anxiety? (December 2018). Healthline.
Kratom for Opioid Withdrawal: Does It Work? (November 2018). Everyday Health.
Kratom Use and Mental Health. (October 2017). Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Kratom Uses and Side Effects. (January 2019). Verywell Mind.
Science Letter on Kratom. (February 2018). Open Letter to the White House.
Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on the Agency’s Scientific Evidence on the Presence of Opioid Compounds in Kratom, Underscoring Its Potential for Abuse. (February 2018). U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
What Is Kratom? (September 2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse.