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Kava Vs. Kratom: Are They Safe for Recovery?

With more and more people becoming aware of the dangers addictive substances With more and more people becoming aware of the dangers addictive substances can pose for themselves and the people around them, many have started looking for substitutes for their previous recreational activities. Some of the most common alternatives people have turned to include Kava and kratom, both of which have become popular and widely available in local bars, gas stations, and even vitamin shops. 

Of course, with this newfound popularity, many people are asking questions surrounding the safety and purposes of these substances. One of which is whether these substances are safe for people in recovery from addiction. To ensure a safe and successful recovery, it is important to fully understand the differences between kava vs. kratom and how they can impact your ability to remain sober.

What Is Kava?

Kava is a shrub native to the South Pacific islands that has been used for centuries for its relaxing and mood-boosting effects. Also known as Piper methysticum, or “intoxicating pepper,” Kava is made by grinding the plant’s roots into a powder. After, the powder is mixed with water to create a psychoactive tea-like beverage with a slightly bitter taste and a milky appearance.

While Kava is most often available in the form of a drink often sold at bars and cafes, it can come in a variety of other forms, including capsules, tablets, tinctures, and extracts, which can be found both online and in local convenience stores.

Kava contains compounds, kavalactones, which are likely responsible for its calming effects. Research suggests that kavalactones interact with the neurotransmitter GABA receptors in the brain. In doing so, it produces feelings of relaxation and euphoria.

Kava is commonly used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Anxiety and stress relief
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Pain relief
  • Socializing

Kava is generally considered safe when taken in moderate doses and for short periods of time. However, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects. These can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain

The DEA highlights the risk of developing of kava dermopathy, a side effect of Chronic use of kava resulting in dry scaly skin or yellow skin discoloration. In rare cases, Kava can cause more serious side effects, such as liver damage. As with any other substance, it is essential to talk to your doctor before using Kava, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any other medications.

What Is Kratom?

Kratom is an herbal substance derived from the kratom plant. This drug is commonly known for its ability to produce opioid-like effects without dangerous side effects. Like Kava, kratom is sold in the form of teas, tinctures, and supplements from various vendors across the country. 

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any medical uses for kratom, many people report having used this substance to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings during their recovery from opioid addiction. 

Of course, there is research suggesting that kratom can have addictive properties when used in high doses or over long periods of time. Best known for producing short-term relaxation and euphoria, kratom may also produce unpleasant side effects including: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Increased urination
  • Tachycardia
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite

Users of kratom may also experience anorexia, hepatotoxicity, seizures, and hallucinations. This is why it is important to always consult with your doctor before taking any new substances and to only use kratom in low, controlled doses.

Why Do People in Recovery Use Kava and Kratom?

For those recovering from substance use disorders, the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that can occur during this period can be debilitating. For many people, turning to substances such as Kava and kratom that can mimic the effects of their abused drug can help them deal with these effects without relapsing. 

In general, Kratom is an herbal remedy to improve mood and reduce anxiety, while kava offers more of a sedative effect. However, people in recovery use Kava and kratom for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Manage cravings: Kava and kratom can be effective in reducing cravings for alcohol and other drugs, such as opioids. This is likely due to their ability to interact with the same receptors in the brain as other addictive drugs.
  • Reduce anxiety and stress: Kava and kratom can both have a calming and relaxing effect, which can be helpful for people in recovery who are dealing with symptoms such as anxiety and stress.
  • Improve their mood: Kava and kratom can both improve mood and promote a sense of well-being, which can be helpful for people in recovery who are struggling with depression or other mental health issues.
  • Pain relief: Kava and kratom both can provide relief in people experiencing chronic pain, which can prevent a relapse on opioids or other painkillers.
  • Aid in sleep: Kava and kratom can both help to improve sleep quality, which is important for those in recovery who are often struggling to sleep due to anxiety, stress, or other factors.

It is important to note that Kava and kratom are not without their risks. Both substances can have side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and headache. Additionally, kratom can be addictive, and regular use can lead to tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

Kava vs Kratom: Are They Safe?

Despite the potential benefits of Kava and kratom, there are also a number of reasons why people in recovery should avoid using these substances. For starters, Kava and kratom do have the potential to become addictive. 

Kratom, in particular, presents a risk for abuse. In fact, regular use can lead to tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from this substance can be severe, with side effects comparable to that of opioid withdrawal, and include symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and muscle aches.

Kava and kratom can also negatively interact with certain prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. In these cases, people using MAT services to help manage their cravings or withdrawal symptoms may experience negative side effects that may be detrimental to their recovery after using Kava or kratom. A similar experience can also occur for those taking prescription medication for mental health problems.

Not to mention, the use of these substances can trigger cravings for other drugs, such as alcohol and opioids, regardless of whether an individual has a physical addiction to Kava or kratom. As a result, Kava and kratom can compromise your recovery.

Using any mind-altering substance can interfere with your ability to work through the issues that led to your addiction. In many cases, these drugs make it difficult to focus on developing healthy coping mechanisms and relationships. This puts you at a higher risk of relapsing when triggers and cravings arise. As a result, the use of kratom and kava in recovery is not without risk.

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The Benefits of Professional Addiction Treatment

Despite the appeal of using substances like Kava and kratom to help with your recovery from drugs or alcohol, seeking professional addiction treatment will always be your best option. When you seek professional help, you open yourself up to a variety of benefits, including: 

  • Increased chances of success
  • Reduced risk of relapse
  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Better relationships and social life
  • Increased employment opportunities

These are just some of the many benefits that come with recovering at a professional treatment center. Addiction is a serious and complex disease, and treating this condition will require much more care than alternative substances like Kava and kratom can provide. 

Drug Addiction Treatment at Royal Life Centers

At Royal Life Centers, we understand that addiction recovery can be a complicated and difficult process. Our treatment approach provides the comprehensive and effective care you need to successfully achieve long-term sobriety. 

In addition to our diverse staff of medical and mental health professionals, you will have access to a variety of treatment options when participating in our program, including

  • Medical detox services
  • Residential treatment
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Intensive outpatient
  • Outpatient treatment

We want you to have the best chance at success on your recovery journey. That is why we will work with you to identify your specific care needs and build a treatment plan that caters to them. Our comprehensive, holistic treatment approach addresses the effects of substance abuse and the underlying causes. To do so, we provide you with the foundation of skills you need to maintain long-term recovery from drug addiction.

Ready to start your recovery? Call us today at 877-732-6837. Our admissions team is available 24/7 to answer all of your questions and help you start your journey to a happier and healthier future.

Lisa Tomsak
Medically Reviewed by Lisa Tomsak, DO

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