Kratom is an herbal supplement used to help overcome opioid withdraw. Exposure to this herb has increased over the past seven years, and it’s now under review to become a schedule 1 Substance due to its dangerous past.
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a tropical evergreen found in Thailand, Malasia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. This coffee relative has been used for many reasons and can be chewed, smoked, made into a pill, extracted, or made into a tea. However, natives that know the plant have claimed that it is addictive. The FDA has confirmed this claim stating that Kratom has opioid-like properties. However, at the same time, it is also 13 times more potent for filling pain than morphine.
Why has Exposure Increased?
Recently, the Central Ohio Poison Center and the Center for Injury Research and Policy, Nationwide Children’s Hospital published a study in Clinical Toxicology which showed that between January 2011 and December 2017, 1,800 calls about Kratom exposure were made to the poison control center. What’s important to note is that over 60% of these calls were from 2016 to 2017.
In 2011, only 13 calls were received nationwide. By 2017, that number had risen to 682. It was also documented that 32% of the calls ended with admission to a hospital and 52% has serious medical outcomes including tachycardia, hypertension, seizures, coma, renal failure, and death. Researchers looking at the study also note other details of importance.
- 71% of those exposed were Men.
- 89% of those exposed were over 20 years old.
- 86% of those exposed were at a home when they were exposed.
- Of the 48 incidents involving children, 69% of those exposed were under 2.
- Idaho & Oregon had the highest expose rates of all the states.
- Delaware & Wisconsin had the lowest exposure rates of all the states.
- In 60% of cases, the usage was classified as intentional abuse or misuse.
"Kratom use has been associated with a variety of serious medical outcomes, from seizures and coma in adults to severe withdrawal syndrome in newborns. ... Individuals who choose to use kratom need to be aware of the potential risks. Just because it is currently classified as an herbal supplement does not mean it is regulated or that it is safe." said co-author Henry A. Spiller, MS, DABAT, director, Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Why is This Increase a Concern?
This increase is a concerning problem because the DEA, or Drug Enforcement Administration, has had Kratom on its list of drugs and chemicals of concern for a few years. Also, the FDA, or Food & Drug Administration, never has studied or approved Kratom. This means that the drug is unregulated and that each batch will have widely ranging quality, purity, and concentration.
However, more important than this is its perception as simple a herbal supplement. It can be purchased on the internet as a raw leaf, powder, gum, capsule, tablet, or even in extract form. When you take a low dose, you will be stimulated. However, as the dose increases, it can act as a depressant or cause euphoria like other opioids.
Recent reports say that it's being used as a treatment for chronic and acute pain as well as depression and anxiety. Furthermore, It’s also been noted to have anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antitussive, antihypertensive, and antidiarrheal effects. Lastly, some have reported enhanced sexual function while taking the herbal supplement.
What’s Being Done About It?
As more people hear those “benefits,” they forget that it’s also a drug that’s lead to many serious health complications as well as death. The FDA claims that 44 deaths have been associated with Kratom and its use. This raises serious concerns about its toxicity and the cons outweighing the pros.
This concern has to lead to several states and cities banning the chemical and calling it a Schedule I drug. Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin have banned this drug statewide. Added to this list are Sarasota County, FL, San Diego County, CA, Denver, CO as well as the District of Columbia having local-only bans.
In November of 2017 and February of 2018, the FDA issues a public health advisory telling of its dangers. They also published a statement that said Kratom is not supported for medical use by science and should not be an alternative to traditional medicine.
As time has gone on, the DEA has planned to add Kratom as a Schedule I substance in the Controlled Substances Act; however, this has done been done yet. Kratom is still under review by the DEA to see how they could best avoid a hazard to public safety.