Medical Definition of Kratom Written by Our Doctors
Kratom: a botanical (plant) preparation that has been described by marketers to offer relief from pain, depression, and anxiety as well as to treat addiction to opioid drugs. Kratom is a plant found in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. It has also been used as a drug of abuse, an alternative to opioid drugs because it can produce similar effects, with similar risks of addiction and death.
In November 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory about the health risks of kratom, citing reports of at least 36 known deaths associated with the use of kratom-containing products. An updated communication by the FDA in February 2018 confirmed the evidence suggesting that kratom has properties of an opioid drug and strengthened the warnings about its use. There also have been reports of kratom being laced with other opioids like hydrocodone. The use of kratom is has been linked to serious complications such as seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms. Kratom use has been linked to 44 deaths between 2011 and 2017.
There are currently no FDA-approved uses of kratom. In the 2018 update, the FDA states, “Kratom should not be used to treat medical conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to prescription opioids. There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use.”
Kratom is regulated as a controlled substance in 16 countries and is also banned in several US states.
FDA. “Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. on FDA advisory about deadly risks associated with kratom.” Nov 17, 2017.
FDA. “Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on the agency’s scientific evidence on the presence of opioid compounds in kratom, underscoring its potential for abuse.”
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