FDA Warns About 'Deadly Risks' Of Taking Kratom For Opioid Addiction

FDA Warns About 'Deadly Risks' Of Taking Kratom For Opioid Addiction

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 warning comes amid an increase in popularity in the US, where kratom is touted as a treatment for pain, anxiety, depression and even as an opioid alternative.

Last year, the US Drug Enforcement Administration announced its plans to name the substance a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive classification alongside heroin and LSD which restricts medical research.

The potential safety risks for kratom raise "significant concerns", according to the FDA.

But in a statement, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said there is no "reliable evidence" to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid-use disorder, and that there are no other FDA-approved uses of kratom.

The FDA says it's aware of 36 deaths linked to kratom, as well as a tenfold increase in calls to US poison control centers about the substance between 2010 and 2015.

The drug is kratom, and despite failing to gain FDA approval, it continued to be available for sale online and in stores - including inside a vending machine in Arizona.

The herb gives its users a euphoric feeling when used recreationally, but it's also proven to be just as addictive and, in some cases, deadly as opioids. People who are taking the product to treat depression and opioid addiction may be putting themselves at risk, the agency says.

Dr. Gottlieb concluded, "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 [.] 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". That way the product can be assessed for its safety and effectiveness.

So far, no marketer has tried "to properly develop a drug that includes kratom", Gottlieb said.

Additionally, the FDA said it has identified kratom products on two import alerts, and is working to prevent shipments of the substance from entering the USA, as well as detained hundreds of shipments at worldwide mail facilities. Hundreds of shipments have been detained and product has been seized and destroyed.

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

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