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Is a Kava Overdose Possible?

kava overdose

Kava kava is an herb that has grown in popularity over recent years. Renowned for its relaxing effects, it is often served as a drink or tea and can act as a substitute for alcohol in some cases. It does so by providing similar feelings but without the risk of intoxication or hangover. As more research is done, many are left to wonder how much of this unique herb is too much. Banyan Chicago asks the question: Should we be worried about a potential kava overdose? 

What Does Kava Feel Like? 

This ingredient is an anxiolytic herb that produces a sense of relaxation in the central nervous system. Taking kava is known to produce a similar buzz as an alcoholic beverage. It is extracted from the Piper methysticum plant, which is found among several Pacific Island chains. Native Islanders have used it in religious ceremonies for centuries, while Western cultures tend to use it for anxiety and stress relief in social settings. It can come as a liquid, tablet, or tea, and while it is psychoactive, it is, in fact, non-alcoholic. 

The active ingredient kavalactone is believed to interact with the limbic system. That is the part of the brain that is responsible for producing feelings of anxiety. As the kavalactones bind to these receptors, it is theorized that it naturally reduces that fear.  

Does Kava Get You High? 

While some people may experience a sense of euphoria and a heightened level of sociability, it won’t necessarily get you high in the traditional sense. People that take kava claim to remain clear-headed, something that is often sacrificed when drinking alcohol. Additionally, how buzzed a person feels may depend on the body mass index. So, someone with a lower BMI is more likely to experience a greater buzz than someone who is larger.  

Users have also reported that their tongue and lips feel numb, due to the action of specific kavalactones. Some people find this sensation pleasurable, while others may not. A warm and tingly feeling can affect the muscles, adding to the relaxed symptoms. While kava will not exactly make you high, it can produce similar, albeit less intense, effects to alcohol. 

Is Kava Addictive? 

This will depend on the person taking it. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a “chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences.” In other words, choosing to consistently take a substance that affects the reward center of the brain can be classified as an addiction. 

In the case of kava, it is not currently listed as an addictive substance by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some studies have found it can cause similar effects to those of addictive substances. By interacting with dopamine receptors and GABA, the elevation of mood can result in dependence.  

Can You Overdose on Kava? 

At this point, a kava overdose is still relatively unheard of. Even so, long-term kava use has been associated with instances of liver damage, weight loss, and general apathy. Ingesting substantial amounts, especially at one time, can lead to impaired motor coordination and delayed reaction time. To be safe, avoiding driving and operating large machinery is suggested when possible.  

It is also recommended that this substance be enjoyed in a calm, relaxed environment. Kava bars have grown in popularity as a communal environment to experience this ingredient. 

Although a kava overdose is unlikely, any kind of dependence should be considered and addressed. If you find yourself constantly relying on a substance like kava tea, alcohol, or other drugs in a way that interferes with your everyday life, a deeper issue could be at play. 

Banyan’s Chicago Addiction Treatment Center Can Help 

Our facilities are equipped with several care levels that can evaluate an addiction and help you tackle it head-on. For instance, our Chicago IOP provides similar benefits to inpatient treatment while giving patients the flexibility to maintain their everyday responsibilities. We also house a variety of therapies that can enrich patients and keep them actively engaged every step of the way.  

For more information about Illinois addiction treatment, call Banyan Chicago at 888-280-4763 today.  


Related Readings 

What Is Kava? 

Non-Alcoholic Summer Drinks to Try 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Is a Kava Overdose Possible?
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