Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

FDA Warns Against Using Kratom Products for Opioid Treatment

FDA Warns Against Using Kratom Products for Opioid Treatment

The FDA said it is working to prevent shipments of kratom in the United States and has detained hundreds of these packages at global mail facilities.

Kratom, like opioids, is believed to relieve pain.

Supporters say they use kratom to treat aches and pains, anxiety and to boost focus. Additionally, the FDA is aware of reports of 26 deaths associated with the use of kratom-containing products, and that there have been reports of kratom being laced with other opioids like hydrocodone.

Kratom has similar effects to narcotics like opioids and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and in worst cases, death, the FDA noted. Jessica Bardoulas of the American Osteopathic Association tells USA Today there's "anecdotal and scientific evidence indicating kratom could be an effective opioid alternative".

Aside from being marketed online and in largely unregulated supplements as a concentration booster and workout enhancer, kratom is being advertised as a replacement for opioid painkillers. "The use of kratom is also associated with serious side effects like seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms". The DEA will review the FDA's assessment and make a determination, says DEA spokesperson Wade Sparks. The Drug Enforcement Administration temporarily listed kratom as a Schedule 1 controlled substance last August, but withdrew the decision after an outcry and a targeted petition effort.

Kratom is banned in Australia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand and in several USA states - Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Between 2010 and 2015, kratom-related calls to US poison control centers jumped 10-fold.

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"We've learned a tragic lesson from the opioid crisis: that we must pay early attention to the potential for new products to cause addiction, and we must take strong, decisive measures to intervene", Gottlieb said. Across the USA, several reports of deaths and addiction led the Drug Enforcement Administration to place kratom on its list of "drugs and chemicals of concern".

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

"While we remain open to the potential medicinal uses of kratom, those uses must be backed by sound science and weighed appropriately against the potential for abuse", Gottlieb wrote.

More than 340 million shipments of kratom reach the US each year, even though the FDA has seized hundreds more.

Nevertheless, the drug has continued to pop up in supplements, prompting the FDA to issue a health alert in 2014 about kratom-containing dietary supplements and bulk dietary ingredients.

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