Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
Health Care | By Alberto Manning

FDA raises concerns about use of kratom for opioid addiction

FDA raises concerns about use of kratom for 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.

There have been 36 deaths associated with kratom in the USA, and the FDA says, hundreds of calls made to poison control centers.

Some people think kratom is safe because it comes from a plant - it's a relative of coffee - but many poisons come from plants, including opioids, cyanide and ricin.

Kratom has similar effects to narcotics like opioids and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and in worst cases, death, the FDA noted. Anita Gupta, an osteopathic anesthesiologist and licensed pharmacist, has expressed concern about an increase in the use of kratom among her chronic pain patients. Instead, Gottlieb mentioned that kratom is already a controlled substance in 16 countries, and that several states have pending legislation to ban it.

As a result, the agency has begun seizing supplies of kratom and taking steps to prevent future shipments from being imported into the United States, the FDA says. The agency states, however, that there is no reliable evidence that kratom can be used to treat opioid use disorder. "In response to a request from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FDA has conducted a comprehensive scientific and medical evaluation of two compounds found in kratom".

On Nov. 14, 2017, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, issued a statement regarding the risk of using kratom. Others use kratom for its euphoric effects, or to wean addicts off opioids such as prescription painkillers or heroin, also without medical say-so. Finally, the use of kratom is associated with serious side effects like seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms, he wrote.

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"The FDA is concerned about harmful unapproved products that have been crossing our borders in increasing numbers", Gottlieb wrote in a statement.

"At global mail facilities, the FDA has detained hundreds of shipments of kratom".

"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", Gittlieb said.

"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.

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

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