Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

FDA chief warns about kratom to treat opioid addiction

FDA chief warns about kratom to treat opioid addiction

The FDA is warning Americans to stay away from kratom, calling its use as an opioid replacement or to treat opioid withdrawals "extremely concerning" and citing 36 deaths connected to the substance, Reuters reports.

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. It's taken recreationally for its euphoric effects, as a dietary supplement, to treat anxiety and depression, and more. Kratom use can also cause seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms, the FDA said. He said that calls to USA poison control centers involving kratom increased 10-fold between 2010 and 2015, and that the herb is associated with side effects including seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms.

The scientific research about kratom and its potential medical uses are very limited, but evidence of its risks are clear. "It's probably easier to "do it yourself" with kratom ordered over the internet than find - if it's available - and pay for FDA approved, doctor supervised treatment". And 36 deaths have been linked to kratom-containing products.

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

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

The FDA said that some of the adverse risks of opioids also appear with kratom use, including "abuse, addiction and in some cases, death".

In this photo illustration, capsules of the herbal supplement Kratom are seen on May 10, 2016 in Miami, Florida.

Past year 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. The DEA will review the FDA's assessment and make a determination, says DEA spokesperson Wade Sparks. Hundreds of shipments have already been detained and many are seized.

Kratom is banned in Australia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand and in several USA states - Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

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

"I want to be clear on one fact: there are now no FDA-approved therapeutic uses of kratom", Gottlieb wrote.

Gottlieb said he was sympathetic but said distributors have to show that kratom does work as advertised. Currently, there appeared to be no companies reviewing kratom to be used for medicinal purposes.

Like this: