Some people compare kava to addictive substances because it can be mind-altering. However, they are not the same. Kava alters your mind in a positive way, for a brief period. Kava has been used for centuries and has been studied and tested. However, many people still ask: is kava addictive?
Kava has not been found to be addictive among users. Even those who take kava daily report that at times when they do stop using it, they do not experience withdrawal symptoms. Meaning, they do not have symptoms that make them feel they need to continue using kava.
We'll discuss some of these withdrawal symptoms in further detail below. First, it is important to determine what constitutes addiction.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is affecting millions of people around the world. Some are addicted to prescriptions medications, others to alcohol. Even more people are addicted to tobacco, sugar and caffeine, which don’t seem as dangerous as drugs and alcohol. However, over time, they can be very harmful.
You can become addicted to anything, from tobacco to gambling. Some even find themselves addicted to what are normally considered positive actions. For instance, there are many people addicted to exercise.
While exercise is great, taking it to the extreme and allowing it to control your lifestyle can be damaging. If your thoughts and actions become consumed with something and you are unable to stop yourself from participating in this behavior, you most likely have an addiction.
To be an addict, your body has become habituated to a lifestyle where a substance or activity is top priority due to the high or feeling of euphoria associated with it. This feeling is fleeting, however, and is rarely felt again after the first time.
There are specific traits of addiction that are typically found among all users.
Characteristics of Addiction
Addiction arises from multiple substances such as alcohol and tobacco, but is kava addictive as well?
Characteristics of addiction include not being able to quit using a substance no matter how bad you want to stop. You will also continue to use the substance despite the negative consequences that arise because of your use. Addiction can arise from multiple substances such as alcohol and tobacco, but is kava addictive as well?
Negative consequences can include arrests and jail sentences, loss of family and friends who no longer want to be around you, and loss of employment. Some have even lost custody of their children due to their addiction.
Addiction can even cause you to steal from others, even loved ones, to get money to supply your habit. Addiction can make it easy to lie to the people who care about you. Not only will you lie, you will isolate yourself from family and friends.
It can also turn your brain from healthy to constantly focusing on one thing, getting more substances that make you feel good.
Addiction and the Brain
We know chemicals in drugs, alcohol, and tobacco can cause addiction, but is kava addictive? Fortunately, kava stimulates brain chemicals that allow you to feel happy but without any risk of addiction.
Most substances associated with addiction have a direct link with the brain. Upon first use, the substances interact with the feel-good chemicals in the brain, such as GABA, dopamine or serotonin. It causes these chemicals to feel ten times better than what they normally feel.
For example, on a scale of one to ten, a normal brain may feel like a 4. When you first take a drink of alcohol or use opiates for the first time, your brain feels like a 10. It makes sense as to why your brain makes you crave the substance you used. It wants to feel like a 10 again, and again, and again.
When the brain realizes you are not going to use these substances again, it makes you feel like you need them and can’t live without them. That is when cravings and withdrawal symptoms appear.
Withdrawal symptoms make it hard for you to quit using your substance of choice. Someone experiencing withdrawal associated with alcohol and drugs may have sweating, nausea, vomiting, and other flu like symptoms.
Kava has not been associated with any withdrawal symptoms. Its effects last only a few hours, unlike that of alcohol or drugs.
When you stop taking alcohol or drugs, you can begin to crave the substances. This is your brain telling you that you need more.
With kava, you do not experience these cravings.
Those who have been addictive to serious drugs or alcohol are now using kava to help them stop taking the more dangerous substances. They claim kava is a great anti-craving agent, making it easier for them overcome their addiction safely and effectively.
To overdose means to take too much of a substance. An overdose of drugs or alcohol can have adverse reactions, from the inability to function properly to becoming unconscious to death.
An overdose on kava, however, just increases the sedation you feel, still lasting only a few hours. There is no imminent danger or severe negative consequences associated with drinking too much kava.
Most addictive substances have a tolerance level associated with them. Meaning, after using them for a period, your body needs more and more of the substance to get the same effects. For example, when a person drinks alcohol, in the beginning, they may get drunk on two beers.
Over time, however, they will need to increase the number of beers they drink to get drunk.
This applies to all addictive substances, including caffeine, sugar and tobacco.
Kava is excluded from this group. In fact, kava has a reverse tolerance effect. This means when someone first starts taking kava, it can take several uses before you even feel its effects.
One Final Thought
So, is kava addictive? The answer is no.
An important fact to remember when comparing kava to addicting substances surrounds the origins and process by which each are made. Alcohol is made using hops. Drugs such as opiates derive from the poppy plant.
Both alcohol and drugs go through a lot of processing that includes additives made by man.
Kava, on the other hand, derives from the piper methysticum plant. The only processing that takes places is when the root of the plant is pounded to extract the best noble kava strands. Within two or three simple steps you have an alternative drink that makes you feel relaxed and happy. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your kava without having to ask yourself: is kava addictive?