FDA Issues Warning Against Kratom, A Naturally Occurring but Unapproved Plant


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.

Kratom is already a controlled substance in 16 countries, including two of its native countries of origin, Thailand and Malaysia, as well as Australia, Sweden, and Germany. Kratom use can also cause seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms, the FDA said. Calls to poison control centers regarding kratom have increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2015. The FDA said the supplement, marketed as an alternative to painkillers and an opioid withdrawal tool, comes with "deadly risks".

Kratom has a particular compound, called mitragynine, which binds to the same receptors that opioids like heroin does, Chemical & Engineering News reported.

It's listed as an unapproved drug by the FDA and has effects similar to opioids. "The FDA knows people are using kratom to treat conditions like pain, anxiety and depression, which are serious medical conditions that require proper diagnosis and oversight from a licensed health care provider", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated in a press release.

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

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"Importantly, evidence shows that kratom has similar effects to narcotics like opioids, and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and, in some cases, death", Gottlieb said.

Still, Jessica Bardoulas of the American Osteopathic Association said many "were dismayed to learn of the DEA's plan to classify the plan as a Schedule 1 substance. despite anecdotal and scientific evidence indicating kratom could be an effective opioid alternative".

"Given all these considerations, we must ask ourselves whether the use of kratom-for recreation, pain or other reasons-could expand the opioid epidemic".

"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". The DEA will review the FDA's assessment and make a determination, says DEA spokesperson Wade Sparks. "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.

"At global mail facilities, the FDA has detained hundreds of shipments of kratom. In the meantime, based on the weight of the evidence, the FDA will continue to take action on these products in order to protect public health", Gottlieb said in the statement. Until someone does the science the agency is requesting, the FDA will attempt to prevent shipments of kratom from entering the US.