Health Care

FDA Warns Of Injury, Death With Herbal Supplement Kratom

FDA Warns Of Injury, Death With Herbal Supplement Kratom

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.

Kratom is a common name for a plant that grows in several countries in Southeast Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Specifically, Gottlieb noted, poison control centers received ten times more calls about kratom in 2015 than they did in 2010. Others use kratom for its euphoric effects, or to wean addicts off opioids such as prescription painkillers or heroin, also without medical say-so. "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". "Patients addicted to opioids are using kratom without dependable instructions for use and more importantly, without consultation with a licensed health care provider about the product's dangers, potential side effects or interactions with other drugs", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in the advisory.

Kratom, like opioids, is believed to relieve pain.

"The FDA is concerned about harmful unapproved products that have been crossing our borders in increasing numbers", Gottlieb wrote in a statement. "Before it can be legally marketed for therapeutic uses in the US, kratom's risks and benefits must be evaluated as part of the regulatory process for drugs that Congress has entrusted the FDA with".

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration proposed banning the use of kratom.

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

But the FDA said Tuesday that kratom carries similar risks, including addiction and death, and the agency is working to block shipments.

The FDA's chief, Scott Gottleib, asked Congress for more power and expanded resources to combat the opioid epidemic on Tuesday. Instead, Gottlieb mentioned that kratom is already a controlled substance in 16 countries, and that several states have pending legislation to ban it.

Gottlieb said he was sympathetic but said distributors have to show that kratom does work as advertised. Hundreds of shipments have been detained and product has been seized and destroyed. People who are taking the product to treat depression and opioid addiction may be putting themselves at risk, the agency says.

"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 added.