More and more people are turning to the herbal supplement kratom for self-treatment of chronic or acute pain, depression, anxiety, and opioid withdrawal. Kratom is a controversial supplement because federal regulators and drug law enforcement officials have said there is little evidence to support the substance’s safety or effectiveness for any of these uses. A new study has now left more cause for concern, finding that potentially dangerous medical outcomes related to the drug’s use are on the rise.
Research published online today in the magazine Clinical Toxicology It found that kratom-related calls to US poison control centers increased more than 5,000 percent between 2011 and 2017. The number of annual calls rose from 13 to 682 in that time period. About two-thirds of the total 1,800 calls occurred during that period between 2016 and 2017.
“The use and abuse of kratom has significantly increased,” says one of the study co-authors. Henry Spillerdirector of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, who conducted the investigation along with the Center for Injury Research and Policy.
“Kraft is legal but completely unregulated, so there are people who take a lot and then have tachycardia (rapid heart rate), high blood pressure, agitation, and seizures,” he says. “We have a number of deaths and comas.”
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New data reveals that half of the calls were due to serious medical problems
The new data revealed that 1,807 calls were made to US poison control centers during the study period and that just over half were due to serious medical problems, such as rapid heartbeat, seizures or coma (while the less serious outcomes that led to the calls were for things like nausea and headaches). and diarrhea). About a third of those calling for treatment ended up in a health care facility. Of the 1,807 calls made during the study period, 11 kratom-related deaths, 37 comas, and 113 epileptic seizures were reported.
Seventy percent of the calls were from males, and 90 percent were from people 20 years of age or older. However, it is noteworthy that children under the age of 12 accounted for 48 calls, and 69 percent of those calls were for children under the age of two.
The results indicate that more people are using kratom, which explains why there are more calls to poison centers, says Spiller.
“We were particularly concerned to find a number of newborns with kratom withdrawal symptoms,” Spiller says, suggesting that expectant mothers use kratom during pregnancy. “We thought we’d see major violations, but this was an unexpected finding.”
Doctors are urging women to be made aware of the risks of using kratom during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
Spiller notes that the study results do not represent the full number of kratom users because they only represent cases reported to poison centers. He suggests that follow-up research focus on neonatal outcomes, because newborns may be at risk for not only withdrawal symptoms, but also seizures and potential long-term health effects.
He notes some limitations of the study, including those calls that may be about repeated exposure to the same individuals, and at the same time, not everyone who uses excessive doses of kratom or has another reaction that results in contacting a poison center (number of calls reported cannot be assumed) reflect the total number of kratom users). Also, the data does not take into account why the caller used kratom in the first place (eg for pain relief, recreational use, or any other reason).
Should kratom be regulated?
Kratom is an extract from an evergreen tree (Mitrajina Speciosa) located in Southeast Asia. Depending on the dosage, the herb can have a stimulating or sedative effect.
Spiller says that most people buy kratom in capsule form online, but some natural or herbal supplement stores sell it as well.
Although there are currently no federal regulations regarding kratom, US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) It lists it as a “drug of concern,” and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Do not agree to use it. While kratom has been promoted as a way to treat withdrawal from opioid medications, the Food and Drug Administration warns consumers that it affects the brain’s opioid receptors like morphine and may actually lead to addiction. In February 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deemed kratom an opioid in a publicly released warning statement.
In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced its intent to list kratom as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use.
“Some researchers have expressed caution and restraint in escalating calls by the DEA to ban the substance, urging it to be studied in greater depth, and to be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration,” Robert Glatter, MD, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, was not involved in the recent kratom study. “They are showing that it can be used as an alternative to opioids that have proven to be a relentless crisis.”
However, Spiller says replacing an opioid like oxycodone with kratom is a dangerous path.
Related: How do you know you are dependent on opioids?
Dr. Glatter adds, “There is a growing body of medical literature and case reports describing not only overdose but also ongoing abuse that can lead to prolonged and severe withdrawal syndromes.”
What you should know if you are taking or considering taking kratom
Glatter says that despite claims that this herb can help with chronic anxiety, pain, depression, PTSD, and alcohol abuse, legitimate medical evidence to support such claims is weak at best. “The significant risks of using this compound outweigh any potential or perceived benefit.”
Spiller agrees that kratom is not suitable for any use. He says that if people ignore this advice they should be very careful using it. “It’s much stronger than you might expect.”