As part of the Trump administration’s plan to aggressively fight the nation’s opioid addiction crisis, the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) has also decided to go after an herbal supplement. This morning, the head of the government agency, Scott Gottlieb, issued an advisory statement to consumers about the potential danger and addictive nature of kratom.
With 36 deaths supposedly linked to kratom and an increase of calls to poison control centers, the plant is now on the FDA’s radar. According to Gottlieb’s statement, the agency fears the use of kratom comes with some possible dangers and the potential to be abused like opioids.
“Over the past several years, a botanical substance known as kratom has raised significant concerns given its increasing prevalence and potential safety risks. Today, the agency issued a public health advisory related to the FDA’s mounting concerns regarding risks associated with the use of kratom.”
Users of kratom, grown in Southeast Asia and sold as an herbal supplement, believe the plant has multiple health benefits, including pain and anxiety relief. Some former opioid addicts even claim kratom helped them overcome their drug problem. Despite these claims, the FDA has not reviewed any evidence of kratom effectively and safely treating any health condition, particularly opioid withdrawal symptoms.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agrees with the FDA’s stance that the plant is addictive and should be banned from the U.S. Last year, the DEA planned to classify kratom as a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same category as heroin and LSD. However, after thousands of comments and letters from kratom supporters asking the agency to keep the supplement legal, the agency dropped its push for reclassification.
“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,” said Gottlieb, as cited by USA Today.
In addition to setting its sights on kratom, the FDA plans to beef up efforts to stop misbranded or unapproved drugs from entering the U.S. Per the same report from USA Today, the agency will work closely with Customs and Border Patrol to help “find people here who are opening the gates to these drugs.”
Having some mild euphoric effects, kratom can be chewed, swallowed in capsules, or brewed as a tea. The plant can either be a stimulant or a sedative depending on the dosage consumed. Currently, kratom is illegal in Alabama, Indiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Wisconsin.
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