As the opiate epidemic rages on, many have begun looking for help to treat their addictions. Kratom, an herb from Asia, has been touted as a miracle drug that can help with opiate withdrawal and addiction. But doctors and politicians were not as convinced. There has been a debate for months over whether or not kratom should be classified as a drug or remain legal as an herbal supplement.
A new study by Binghampton University in New York researched whether or not kratom was safe. Their conclusion won’t make kratom advocates happy. “Our findings suggest kratom is not reasonably expected to be safe and poses a public health threat due to its availability as an herbal supplement.”
The research team reviewed information about kratom and exposure cases reported to the National Poison Data System. Their goal was to determine the toxicities associated with kratom use. There was a total of 2,312 reported kratom exposure cases, with 935 cases involving kratom alone with no other substances.
The most common symptoms of kratom reported were agitation (18.6%), tachycardia (16.9%), drowsiness (13.6%), vomiting (11.2%), and confusion (8.1%). Some serious effects were also reported, ranging from seizure (6.1%) and withdrawal (6.1%) to hallucinations (4.8%) and coma (2.3%), with .6% of the cases involving cardiac or respiratory arrest. They also found four deaths associated with kratom.
The research supports what many have long believed about kratom – that while it might help with opiate addiction, it is simply replacing one addiction for another. In many instances, withdrawal from kratom is worse than heroin withdrawal.
The lead researcher for the study stated: “Although it is not as strong as some other prescription opioids, kratom does still act as an opioid in the body. In larger doses, it can cause slowed breathing and sedation, meaning that patients can develop the same toxicity they would if using another opioid product. It is also reported to cause seizures and liver toxicity. Kratom may have a role in treating pain and opioid use disorder, but more research is needed on its safety and efficacy. Our results suggest it should not be available as an herbal supplement.”
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