FDA warns against using kratom for opioid addiction

The FDA issued a public health advisory on Tuesday warning of "deadly risks" to people using kratom, an herb with narcotic properties that has become popular as a natural remedy for a variety of conditions. 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.

Consumers are increasingly using the supplement, which comes from a plant in Southeast Asia, for pain, anxiety and depression, as well as symptoms of opioid withdrawal. But it's now taken as a recreational drug, with its users saying it treats anxiety, depression and opioid withdrawal.

The FDA says kratom carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and in some cases, death, as opioids. Additionally, the FDA is aware of reports of 26 deaths associated with the use of kratom-containing products, and that there have been reports of kratom being laced with other opioids like hydrocodone.

The regulator said there are now no approved therapeutic uses of kratom, which is linked to serious side effects such as seizures and liver damage. "At a time when we have hit a critical point in the opioid epidemic", the FDA statement said, "the increasing use of kratom as an alternative or adjunct to opioid use is extremely concerning".

The FDA said it is working to prevent shipments of kratom in the United States and has detained hundreds of these packages at global mail facilities. Anita Gupta, an osteopathic anesthesiologist and licensed pharmacist, has expressed concern about an increase in the use of kratom among her chronic pain patients.

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In 16 countries, kratom is a controlled substance. "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".

The United States is in the grip of an opioid epidemic.

Gottlieb said that the drug should be studied before people take it for any reason. The agency has also identified kratom products on 2 import alerts, and is actively working to prevent shipments of kratom from entering the US. That list includes substances with a high potential for abuse and no proven medical use.

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

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