Tealapse: Day 2 – Mike’s Story

Mike's battle with kratom addiction.

“I used it for a while when I didn’t have dope or subs. Me and another guy were getting it shipped from Thailand to Washington state, a guy there packaged it into 1 gram capsules and sent them to us in Maine. Just because head shops charged about 10x what it was actually worth. It’s a relapse for sure, it feels kinda like dope that whole warm comfy feeling, no rush, tastes like shit, and you can’t get really fucked up.”

 

“I know a guy who relapsed on kratom and went to detox for 2 weeks over it. I think he was full of shit tho. I had done other friends that relapsed on it and said the detox was a mild headache for an afternoon.”

 

Mike Has Been Addicted To Kratom For 3 Years

“I’m addicted to it. Definitely. It’s a powerful drug.”

After posting my initial blog yesterday, I received an astounding amount of personal stories recounting how addicting and destructive kratom has been to the lives of many. The above are direct quotes from two of the many recovering addicts and alcoholics who have had a run in with the drug – one recounting a personal experience and one bolstering the social stigma that seems to prevent many addicts from seeking help.

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to interview a young man who we will call “Mike” for the sake of anonymity. Mike contacted me in belief that his story would likely resonate with many, and potentially deter a few.

Mike has been trying to get sober for the past 4 years, relocating from Maine to Southern Florida. Like the vast majority of northern transplants, he attended a local inpatient program, graduated to a halfway house, and resided there until he relapsed. But unique to this addict’s story is his willingness to discuss the constant presence of kratom – a drug that many ‘recovering’ addicts likely use regularly but few admit to even experimenting with. Seeing as kratom has evidently been around, readily available, and prevalently used for at least 3 years, why is the herbal remedy just now becoming a hot topic of conversation?

The suicide of a young Boynton Beach man in July raised questions, seeing as kratom and anti-depressants were both found in his system at the time of death. While kratom is surely not entirely to blame for this young man’s unfortunate and untimely passing, the safety of the drug was definitely brought to the forefront of media attention after the incident took place. Mike, despite his own struggles with kratom addiction, is also in agreement that herb was not possibly responsible for the suicide in whole – or even in large part. “It won’t kill you”, Mike says. “But it will definitely throw your life off-track.”

Mike began using kratom while living in a local halfway house, hearing from friends that the drug would provide an opiate-like high and would never show up on routine urinalysis tests. Like many sober newbies, he wanted to get without any of the consequences – and this seemed like an ideal way in which to do so. Not only was kratom readily accessible, but it also relieved social anxiety (who doesn’t suffer from a little of that now and again?), enhanced mood, and resulted in no immediate acute withdrawal symptoms. The sense of well-being and the energy boost the drug provided made Mike believe he may have found the answer. Now, 3 years later, he spends an average of $1000 a month on the herb and has difficulty making rent.

“I Don’t Want to Condemn Kratom – I Do See Some Benefits That Could Come From It”

While Mike can confidently say that he is addicted to kratom and that the drug pretty much controls his day-to-day life – “I feel like a slave to it, my daily routine is based around it” – he almost scoffs at the idea of getting help. “A lot of people would be scared to ask for help, me included. People think it’s a pussy drug, like… it’s for pussies.” Kratom is socially stigmatized throughout the recovery community in the same way marijuana is, depicted as less ‘hard core’ and serious than other frequently abused substances like heroin and painkillers. Of course, these arguments are valid – opioid painkillers and heroin claim lives to sickening degrees across the nation, while not one lethal marijuana overdose has been reported… ever. But still – recovery revolves around sobriety, and discrimination of substances and their seriousness can be exceedingly detrimental to the process.

Mike suggests that many frequent users will enthusiastically claim they are not addicted. However, arriving at a local kratom joint right before opening is “like waiting in line at a methadone clinic” according to Mike’s personal experience. He professes that many of the ‘regulars’ he sees at known kratom spots are there everyday, at least as frequently as he is (up to 5 times in an 8 hour period, he confessed). Additionally, the vast majority of daily patrons are men and women Mike knows from the rooms – members of the program who boast significant amounts of time and “spit good game” but are living secret double lives in the depths of the kratom closet.

While kratom is appealing to those of all personal backgrounds because of its medicinal nature, it tends to be especially alluring to those with histories of opiate abuse and addiction. And while kratom addiction is by no means a national crisis on any level, the destruction and turmoil it has caused in one man’s life is a good indicator of the enormously injurious role the drug may play in the future. Especially if those who are afflicted are too afraid to seek help based on the derogatory sentiments attached to those who claim to be addicted to an herb. In Mike’s mind, there is no doubt that kratom has consumed a solid 3 years of his life. Tomorrow I will attempt to hunt down an advocate – an individual who has benefited from kratom and swears by its medicinal value. Stay tuned for more, and as always, your feedback is important.

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