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Alcohol and Health

Mixing Kratom and Alcohol: Facts and Risks You Should Know

October 28, 2023
18 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
October 28, 2023
18 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
October 28, 2023
18 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
October 28, 2023
18 min read
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Reframe Content Team
October 28, 2023
18 min read

Kratom, a plant scientifically known as Mitragyna speciosa, looks innocent enough — a leafy green plant that’s often dried and ground up into a tea. But there’s a lot more to it.

Native to Southeast Asia, kratom comes from a tropical tree that grows in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Its leaves contain compounds with mind-altering effects. Some people chew the leaves, others brew it as a tea, and some smoke or eat them in food. (These days, it’s often encapsulated or sold as a fine powder). Kratom is often touted for its potential pain-relieving properties, but like any other mind-altering substance, it’s got a dark side.

For one thing, mixing kratom with alcohol isn’t a great idea due to a number of potentially dangerous side effects. And if you’re not careful, it’s easy to end up with a full-blown addiction — whether or not booze is even in the picture.

A Short History of Kratom

The history of kratom dates back centuries. Indigenous communities have long used its leaves in ritual ceremonies and cultural traditions. For these communities, kratom wasn't necessarily a recreational drug; it was a part of their daily life and was often used as a pain remedy. 

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In the 20th century, several countries in Southeast Asia began recognizing the potential risks of kratom, leading them to impose bans or restrictions. For instance, Thailand, where kratom was deeply rooted in society, banned its use in 1943 due to increasing concerns about its addictive properties.

In the past few decades, the U.S. has seen a rise in kratom's popularity. The digital age, with its viral trends and internet marketing, played a pivotal role in kratom's surge in the West. Online forums and communities began discussing it, leading to increased curiosity and demand. By the 2000s and 2010s, kratom was being marketed as a natural supplement or herbal remedy, making its way into teas, capsules, and powders across the country.

But as its popularity grew, so did concerns about its safety and potential health implications. Regulatory bodies like the FDA have continually warned against the use of kratom, emphasizing its possible harmful effects and questioning the marketing strategies that present it as a harmless natural product.

The rise of kratom in the U.S. serves as a reminder that while traditions and ancient practices offer valuable insights, it's crucial to approach such substances with caution and awareness of potential risks.

The Effects of Kratom: What You Need To Know

Kratom's allure in various parts of the world can be attributed to the compounds found in its leaves, primarily mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. These compounds interact with the brain's opioid receptors, producing a range of effects. However, these interactions don't come without a cost. Let's unpack what kratom does to the body and mind:

  • Sedation and drowsiness. As with many substances that affect the opioid receptors, kratom can induce sedation. This isn't just a relaxed feeling — it's a drowsiness that can hit us like a brick wall, interfering with daily activities and hindering our ability to operate machinery or drive.
  • Decreased appetite. Some kratom users have reported a noticeable reduction in their hunger and overall appetite. While this might sound appealing, long-term decreased appetite can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other health problems — for anyone out there looking for a diet drug, this isn’t it!
  • Constipation. Opioid receptors aren't just in the brain — they're also in the gut. When these receptors are activated by substances like kratom, it can slow down bowel movements, leading to constipation — a common side effect.
  • Respiratory depression. One of the most alarming potential effects of kratom is respiratory depression: breathing can slow down or become irregular. In severe cases, this can be life-threatening.
  • Mental effects. Kratom isn't just a bodily experience; it impacts the mind, too. Some users report confusion, delusion, and even hallucinations. These altered states can impede daily functioning, leading to poor decision-making and dangerous situations.
  • Increased heart rate and hyperactivity. Even though kratom can be sedative in nature, it can paradoxically cause increased heart rate, hyperactivity, and hypomania in some users. This can be distressing and dangerous, especially for those of us with underlying heart conditions.

In a nutshell, while kratom might seem like a natural alternative to certain medications or recreational substances, it comes with a laundry list of potential adverse effects. Always prioritize your health and safety, and approach such substances with caution and knowledge.

Diagram about mixing kratom and alcohol

Unpacking the Risks of Kratom 

Kratom’s seemingly beneficial properties are what we hear about, but it's crucial to know about its dangers.

  • Risk of addiction and dependence. The most significant concern about kratom is its potential for addiction. Kratom activates the same brain receptors as opioids, and regular users can develop a tolerance: they need to consume more of the substance to achieve the same effects. Over time, this can escalate to physical and psychological dependence, making it challenging to quit and leading to severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Withdrawal symptoms. Once dependent, those trying to stop using kratom might experience nausea, sweating, tremors, and other withdrawal symptoms. Not a fun time!
  • Physical harm. Consuming kratom has been linked to liver damage, respiratory depression, and seizures.

Kratom and Alcohol: A Dangerous Mix

Mixing substances is almost never a good idea, and when it comes to kratom and alcohol, that’s certainly the case. Alone, each has their risks, but mix them together, and we’re in for a whirlwind of potential dangers.

  • The double dose of drowsiness. Kratom and alcohol can both lead to drowsiness, and when they join forces, the sedative effects can be much stronger. Think slowed reflexes, potential coordination hiccups, and possible respiratory challenges. Most importantly, the combined drowsiness from both substances can increase the risk of accidents and injuries. This duo is definitely not driving-friendly!
  • Neurological roller-coaster. Alcohol can sometimes make the world look rosy (or just blurry), while kratom may introduce a touch of confusion. Mixing the two can compound the effects, creating muddled thinking and poor decision making. 

    But there's another twist. For some folks, kratom can have stimulating effects, potentially triggering episodes of mania or psychosis, especially when combined with alcohol. 
  • Gut-check. Alcohol can do a number on our stomach lining, and kratom can make things worse by hitting the brakes on regular bowel movements. When combined, the two can wreak havoc on digestion.
  • Dependency dilemma. Here's an important heads-up: both kratom and alcohol can lead to dependency. If taken together regularly, breaking up with either becomes that much harder.

Why Quitting or Cutting Back on Both Kratom and Booze Is a Good Idea

Reducing or eliminating our alcohol intake, especially if we’re considering or currently using kratom, is vital. In addition to lowering the risk of dangerous side effects, it also preserves our overall health and well-being. Cutting back can boost our immune system, improve sleep, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases!

At the same time, it’s also a good idea to tread carefully when it comes to kratom, which can be habit-forming in itself. Many former drinkers have found themselves in the kratom trap by using it as a replacement for booze. Transfer addictions are sneaky! Before you know it, you can find yourself stuck in the same cycle with a new substance.

10 Steps To Stay Safe

  • Stay informed. Always keep yourself updated about the substances you're putting into your body. Knowledge helps you make safer decisions. Begin by thoroughly researching both substances — understand their effects, both individually and combined. Knowing what you're dealing with helps you make more informed choices. Sites like PubMed or the National Institute on Drug Abuse offer scientific insights.
  • Limit peer pressure. Surround yourself with supportive friends who respect your choice to cut back or quit alcohol, kratom, or both.
  • Seek professional help. If you're struggling with dependence on kratom, alcohol, or both, don’t hesitate to get professional assistance. A counselor or therapist can provide valuable guidance.
  • Safe disposal. If you have kratom or excess alcohol at home, dispose of them safely. Don’t let temptation sit in your cupboard.
  • Stay hydrated and nourished. Proper nutrition and hydration can speed the detoxification process. Prioritize a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and consider supplements (after consulting with a healthcare professional).
  • Establish a support system. Share your goals with close friends or family. They can provide encouragement and hold you accountable. Also, share your journey with others and inform them of the dangers of mixing kratom and alcohol. Their awareness can be an added layer of support and accountability for you.
  • Replace the ritual. If you usually drink in the evenings, replace it with another activity. Maybe dive into a new book or take up a relaxing hobby like knitting or painting.
  • Set up a routine. A structured daily routine can reduce the chances of falling back into old habits. Fill your day with meaningful activities, giving yourself little time to ruminate or feel tempted.
  • Document your journey. Dedicate a notebook or find a digital platform (such as the Reframe app!) for self-reflection. Record your urges to consume, what triggers them, and how you feel afterward. Over time, you'll identify patterns and can work on healthier coping mechanisms. Keeping track of your experiences, feelings, and milestones can also provide clarity and motivation.
  • Celebrate small wins. Every day you dismiss the urge or consume less, notice it! Over time, these small victories accumulate into significant progress. A visual representation, such as a calendar with marked days, can be a powerful motivator.

The Big Picture

While kratom and alcohol might seem harmless at first glance, they’re not — and combining them can be perilous. Your well-being and safety are paramount, so remember to always make informed choices. 

If we zoom out further, however, we can see that there’s a larger narrative unfolding here. It's not just about the immediate effects of alcohol and kratom or the consequences of mixing the two — it’s about finding a path to genuine freedom. 

Both kratom and alcohol have a way of intertwining themselves into the fabric of our lives, sometimes so subtly that we might not even notice. Dependency isn't just about the physical cravings — it's also about the mental and emotional spaces these substances can invade and occupy. And when they're combined, the challenge of disentangling ourselves can be even more formidable.

But here's some good news: once we see that true freedom isn't found in a bottle or a leaf, our “need” for substances fades, and we gain mental space to see the exciting possibilities that lie beyond them. If you're working to reduce or eliminate your reliance on kratom, alcohol, or any other substance, remember this: every step you take, no matter how small, brings you closer to an authentic experience of life — and it’s absolutely worth it!

Summary FAQs

1. What is kratom and where does it originate?

Kratom, scientifically known as Mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. Historically, it has been used by indigenous communities in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

2. What are the primary effects of kratom?

Kratom can cause sedation, drowsiness, decreased appetite, constipation, respiratory depression, mental disturbances like confusion, increased heart rate, and risk of addiction and dependence.

3. Why is mixing kratom and alcohol dangerous?

Both kratom and alcohol depress the central nervous system. When combined, their effects can intensify, leading to severe sedation, an increased risk of accidents, and heightened addictive properties.

4. How did kratom become popular in the U.S.?

Kratom's popularity in the U.S. surged due to digital trends and internet marketing. Online forums and communities discussed its effects, leading to its marketing as a natural supplement or herbal remedy in the 2000s and 2010s.

5. What are some steps to take if considering cutting back or quitting alcohol and kratom?

Some actionable steps include staying informed, limiting peer pressure, seeking professional help, safely disposing of the substances, establishing a support system, replacing the drinking ritual with another activity, and documenting your journey.

6. Why is it important to cut back or quit alcohol, especially when using kratom?

Reducing or eliminating alcohol, especially with kratom use, is essential for lowering the risk of dangerous side effects. It also supports overall health and well-being.

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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