FDA warns of 'deadly risks' of the herb kratom, citing 36 deaths

A mitragynine molecule which is the herbal alkaloid present in kratom. Source:OLEKUUL  SCIENCE

A mitragynine molecule which is the herbal alkaloid present in kratom. Source:OLEKUUL SCIENCE

Citing 36 deaths, the Food and Drug Administration chief will warn consumers on Tuesday not to use the herbal supplement kratom to ease opioid withdrawal and announce plans to step its regulatory oversight to combat the opioid epidemic.

In the United States, there are no FDA-approved uses for kratom, which grows naturally in Southeast Asia. It is also often used recreationally for its euphoric effects. In his statement, he wrote that calls to U.S. poison control centers regarding kratom have increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2015, with hundreds of calls made each year.

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.

The scientific research about kratom and its potential medical uses are very limited, but evidence of its risks are clear. And 36 deaths have been linked to kratom-containing products.

Kratom has a particular compound, called mitragynine, which binds to the same receptors that opioids like heroin does, Chemical & Engineering News reported.

So far, no marketer has tried "to properly develop a drug that includes kratom", Gottlieb said. "Before it can be legally marketed for therapeutic uses in the USA, kratom's risks and benefits must be evaluated as part of the regulatory process for drugs that Congress has entrusted the FDA with".

"Importantly, evidence shows that kratom has similar effects to narcotics like opioids, and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and in some cases, death", Gottlieb added.

The FDA says it will seize shipments of kratom and issued a public health warning telling people not to use it.

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

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

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration proposed banning the use of kratom. "Kratom is also banned in several states, specifically Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin and several others have pending legislation to ban it", Gottlieb stated. The agency has already detained hundreds of packages at global mail facilities.

For now, the FDA said it is working to prevent shipments of kratom from entering the country. "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", Gottlieb said in the statement. Currently, there appeared to be no companies reviewing kratom to be used for medicinal purposes.

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