If you live with bipolar disorder, self-medicating with kratom may come up as an alternative to traditional treatment. There are several risks to know about.

If you have bipolar disorder, seeking treatment from a healthcare professional will always be the best option. But you may find yourself turning to the Internet to find alternative solutions.

While looking for alternatives, kratom might come up on an online community board. Many claim it has eased their chronic pain, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.

But kratom comes with many risks and negative side effects. Researchers haven’t studied kratom and its effects in-depth, and it isn’t officially approved for medical use.

Let’s explore: Is self-treating bipolar disorder with this psychoactive botanical a viable option?

Kratom is an herbal extract from a tree native to Southeast Asia. Workers in the area initially chewed kratom leaves to fight fatigue and improve work productivity. Kratom leaves contain an active ingredient calledmitragynine.

The effects of kratommimic opioids. Although not technically an opioid, mitragynine does have opioid-like effects because of its chemical structure.

Short-term, it can block pain while increasing dopamine and serotonin in the brain. People are more energetic and in a good mood.

On the other hand, dependency, altered moods, and respiratory depression can occur and can be life threatening. Withdrawal from kratom also comes with negative side effects.

Kratom’s effects on the body depend on how much is taken. Smaller doses work to stimulate the brain, leading to more energy. A larger amount works like an opioid, making you feel relaxed or sedated.

It is most commonly used as an opioid substitute treatment for people who are living with opioid use disorder, according to 2020 research. But kratom has also been shown to also run the risk of addiction. There aren’t current studies on kratom and bipolar disorder.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t consider kratom a controlled substance, so there are few regulations on it. While kratom is legal in most states in the United States, consider checking to see if kratom is legal where you reside. It’s not approved for medical use, so an effective dose, if it exists, isn’t currently known.

Further, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists kratom as a chemical of concern and notes reported side effects of hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms when used.

A person looking to buy kratom can still purchase it in many states in the following forms:

  • powder
  • capsules
  • gum
  • extracts

According to research, 4 to 5 million people currently use kratom in the U.S. There’s no current research on the benefits of using kratom for bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes periods of high-energy euphoria — called mania — to deep depressive episodes during other times.

These episodes leave those affected to seek treatment, often with mood stabilizers or other FDA-approved medications to treat bipolar disorder. But some may still turn to other alternatives, with kratom being one of them.

According to an older 2006 study, 40%-70% of people who live with bipolar disorder also have a history of . This history and the high likelihood of co-occurrence may make kratom more harmful than beneficial.

Those that self-medicate with kratom may find it improves their bipolar disorder symptoms by easing depression and anxiety. People who used kratom to self-treat mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, reported a perceived reduction in symptoms in a 2017 study on kratom.

The problem with using kratom to fight depressive episodes symptoms is that — when taken in a larger dose — it can cause depression, which worsens your symptoms.

However, research on kratom’s benefits for bipolar disorder is limited. More research is needed to make sure kratom is helpful and what dose is safe.

Since doctors don’t know an effective dose for kratom, self-administering a powerful drug without professional supervision can be dangerous.

Kratom’s safety is a concern. Here are the red flags associated with using it and why you should be aware:

  • Kratom addiction may develop: The opioid-like effects may lead to dependence or addiction.
  • Kratom may lead to symptoms of withdrawal when you stop taking it: For example, you can experience fever, mood swings, and disturbed sleep, among many others. Maintaining abstinence can be difficult.
  • Kratom can pose a hazard to your physical safety: It can impair your decision-making and concentration.
  • Kratom is harmful when used with other substances: Since it causes a sense of euphoria, users may want to combine it with alcohol or opioids, which can cause severe side effects or even become fatal.
  • Kratom isn’t approved by the FDA: Due to its high risk of abuse and addiction, the FDA doesn’t consider this a controlled substance, and it’s not approved for medical use.
  • Kratom can make your symptoms worse: As previously mentioned, taking too much can lead to symptoms of depression that get even worse in higher doses or when you suddenly stop taking it.

Kratom use comes with its side effects like:

  • nausea
  • constipation
  • erectile dysfunction
  • loss of appetite
  • dry mouth
  • hair loss
  • low thyroid levels
  • breathing difficulty

More severe reactions, which may be due to overuse or change in use include:

Withdrawal symptoms include:

Before taking kratom, please speak to your doctor since it can interact with your other medications, leading to more severe side effects.

Kratom comes from a tree with the same name originally grown in Southeast Asia.

Today, people use kratom for various reasons. Some self-medicate for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, or mental health conditions with kratom. But, some also misuse it since it has euphoric effects.

Like with any substance, you should review the facts about kratom and consider them before self-medicating, especially if you have a history of substance use disorder.

If you’re looking for alternative ways to treat your bipolar disorder, many treatments, therapy, and support groups — on and offline — are available.