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

Kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, is a plant in the coffee family that is native to Southeast Asia.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday raised concerns about kratom, saying there is no reliable evidence to support its use to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms, citing reports of 36 deaths associated with the use of kratom-containing products.

Kratom is an unapproved substance touted as a treatment for depression, pain, anxiety and even opioid addiction. "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", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says in a public health advisory.

Still, Jessica Bardoulas of the American Osteopathic Association said many "were dismayed to learn of the DEA's plan to classify the plan as a Schedule 1 substance. despite anecdotal and scientific evidence indicating kratom could be an effective opioid alternative".

Kratom, like opioids, is believed to relieve pain. "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". In some cases, kratom is mixed with opioids like oxycodone, the ingredient in OxyContin, according to the agency.

Gottlieb also says in the remarks that a new working group with Customs and Border Patrol is working on stepped-up enforcement at entry points for illegal narcotics. "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. "Patients addicted to opioids are using kratom without dependable instructions for use and more importantly, without consultation with a licensed healthcare provider about the product's dangers, potential side effects, or interactions with other drugs", Gottlieb said in the statement. Around the same time in 2012, the FDA "first put kratom on import alert" FDA press officer Lyndsay Meyer told Business Insider. Hundreds of shipments have been detained and product has been seized and destroyed.

Still, more than 340 million packages reach the US every year. Last year, the DEA proposed a ban on kratom but backtracked under pressure from some members of Congress and outcry from kratom advocates who said it could help treat opioid addiction.

"I understand that there's a lot of interest in the possibility for kratom to be used as a potential therapy for a range of disorders".

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