Medical

What Is Kratom? Opioid Alternative Poses 'Deadly Risks,' FDA Warns

What Is Kratom? Opioid Alternative Poses 'Deadly Risks,' FDA Warns

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued an advisory about harms tied to kratom - an imported herbal supplement with opioid-like effects that is increasing in popularity.

Leaves from the kratom tree, which grows in Southeast Asia and is distantly related to coffee plants, have been touted as a potential treatment for opioid withdrawal, among other conditions. The FDA isn't saying over how long a period those 36 deaths occurred, but data shows 10 times more calls to poison control centers regarding kratom between 2010 and 2015. The plant is used in a supplement and is marketed for a variety of uses, including everything from treating pain and anxiety to helping people recover from opioid withdrawal. At least 36 deaths are associated with the use of products containing kratom, the agency says. "Patients addicted to opioids are using kratom without dependable instructions for use and more importantly, without consultation with a licensed healthcare provider about the product's dangers, potential side effects, or interactions with other drugs", Gottlieb said in the statement.

Tablets of the opioid-based Hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Portsmouth, Ohio, June 21, 2017.

"There are now no FDA-approved therapeutic uses of kratom", said Gottlieb.

The health regulator said kratom has similar effects to narcotics like opioids, and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and in worst cases, death.

"If they find people here who are opening the gates to these drugs, there may be opportunities for the FDA to investigate at a high level", former principal deputy FDA commissioner under the Obama administration, Joshua Sharfstein, told the news site. Hundreds of shipments have already been detained and many are seized.




A year ago the Drug Enforcement Administration planned to make kratom a Schedule I drug, a category that includes marijuana and LSD, but decided against it after an outcry of opposition.

Meanwhile, a similarly troubling trend has been seen with kratom.

The United States is in the grip of an opioid epidemic. "Kratom is also banned in several states, specifically Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin and several others have pending legislation to ban it", Gottlieb stated.

"I understand that there's a lot of interest in the possibility for kratom to be used as a potential therapy for a range of disorders".

For now, the FDA said it is working to prevent shipments of kratom from entering the country.

Dozens of web sites sell kratom, but the FDA said it would exercise its jurisdiction over the product as an unapproved drug.


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