FDA Issues Warning About Dangers of “Natural” Opioid Substitute Kratom 

Early this week, US Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a new public health advisory on the street drug known as kratom. The advisory outlines increasing concern over the drug’s “deadly risks.”

Of course, kratom users tout that the herb is safe and, more importantly, can be used as an effective treatment for various health conditions which might include chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. Furthermore, supporters argue that the herb can assist in drug replacement therapy for opioid addicts.

Still, Gottlieb defends there is “no reliable evidence to support” any of the proposed applications. Particularly, he warns that the use of kratom as an opioid substitute is “extremely concerning.” Furthermore, he suggests this could it could actually “expand the opioid epidemic.”  After all, even though kratom is not classified as an opioid, itself, its active ingredients do mimic some of the common effects of opioid drugs; like euphoria.

Gottlieb continues, “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. From the outset, the FDA must use its authority to protect the public from addictive substances like kratom, both as part of our commitment to stemming the opioid epidemic and preventing another from taking hold.”

In addition, he notes that the FDA will use “import alerts and other authorities” to monitor kratom and improve seizure rates of the drug as it enters the U.S. On top of that , he suggested that kratom belongs to the broader category of “illegal opioids.”  These, he says, enter into the US to the tune of 340 million packages every year.

All the while, the federal targeting of kratom could lead to yet more problems in terms of legitimizing its use, warns Drug Policy Alliance director of communications Jag Davies. He touts, “It’s outrageous that this is happening at a time when we really need innovative solutions to deal with overdose and addiction right now. We know that kratom is a lot less harmful than lots of these other drugs. They’re basically pushing people into using more dangerous substances.”

While there have been some definitive conclusions that the drug can have positive effects, it is still not yet known what dangers the drug can pose at varying amounts and concentrations.

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