Kratom, Stimulants & Withdrawal: A Developing Story

This week, for #DFF we’re talking Kratom! You’ve probably not heard of it, but if you have, we’d love to hear from you! Ravelrie, NY DanceSafe & Stay Safe Seattle are joining me to talk about a substance that has both a long history and an entirely new global fanbase. In many places, like the USA, it’s actually still legal, though, as we’ve seen with a lot of gray-area drugs, that may not be the case for long.IMG_1784This drug has the very interesting side effect of essentially replacing methadone for opiate withdrawal. This is something that took me both a review of the research (summed up nicely in this Scientific American article) and a lengthy stay in r/kratom (that’s right, there’s a reddit community about it) to really believe. One of the differences between the article and the concreteness of the sub-reddit is immediately obvious. While the scientists are speculating and wondering about the effectiveness of the drug, there’s an entire underground of people already using it. Not only are they using it the way it’s traditionally used in Thailand, as the organic/natural analog to methamphetamine, similar to Khat & coca leaves in Africa & Latin America (respectively). But it also provides a much smoother withdrawal than when you try and stop using opiates. The only other drug I’ve ever encountered in my research that does this is Ibogaine, but that is a story for another day. This substance apparently replaces the opiate/pain medication usage, but when users try to quit this…they feel like they’ve got a caffeine headache.

The significantly reduced physical dependency potential & softer withdrawal symptoms have gotten people to use it to do what methodone, Narcotics Anonymous & a lifetime of DARE commercials couldn’t. Get them off drugs. Some succeed, a bunch fail, but in this case, they’ve got a leg-up, as dealing with caffeine withdrawal is a zillion (yea that’s a scientific term sure) times easier than weaning yourself off heroin. As any fan of Trainspotting could tell you. The drug isn’t actually scheduled in the USA, but the DEA is watching it like a hawk. There’s a chance that it could be used to help people, but I assume the usual suspects will shit all over that, but the fact that the community exists, is global, and has helped (admittedly self-report & confirmation bias not-withstanding) a lot of people, means there might be something here. Join us on Twitter at 4:30pm to help us figure it out.

Fentanyl: Everything You Want From Heroin, Without All The Oxygen.

This week, my peeps & I will be talking about Fentanyl on Twitter for Drug Fact Friday. Just in the last couple of days, another OD from powdered fentanyl laced heroin has popped up. This time in North Dakota. Most of the commentary misses the mark. This is not some new fad, or the product of kids looking to get new kicks in their opiate usage. This is a dangerous trend, stemming from one simple factor, decreased quality heroin being cut with fentanyl, resulting in respiratory arrest.

Here’s the thing about heroin. It’s a really, really old drug. Heroin has this generalized depressive effect on the nervous system that many (in fact, 100% of) people find pleasant at low doses. Fentanyl is a much newer, much more precise drug developed for pain management use during surgery. This drug has a much higher rate of respiratory arrest, but clinically this side effect doesn’t matter because a lot of the people who are getting it are usually under general anesthesia and hooked up to heart lung machines. This is a key point that I think most overlook. These users are going to keep using heroin, especially after they’ve become addicted to legal pain killers. That’s not going to stop happening. They can’t afford to go back to pills, and withdrawal sucks ass. So, even if you know it’s cut, you’re still going to use it. And therein lies the problem.

The drugs killing people are the bad pain killers and cut heroin, in this chart provided by (that’s right, even they can’t ignore the problem). This problem is caused, directly, by the use of legal pharmaceuticals to cut illegal drugs. I can qualitatively guarantee there are no groups of teens out there going “You know, I like everything about heroin, but I’m not getting enough respiratory distress.” There aren’t recreational fentanyl users. There are heavy heroin users who will start using more potent opiates, but no one is seeking this out. But because markets don’t care what drug laws say, people keep getting it. For more info, join #FENTAFF on Twitter, to chat with Ravelrie, NY DanceSafe & Stay Safe Seattle.