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Agencies warn of dangers of Kratom supplements

Herb used to treat chronic pain

SAN ANTONIO – The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control warn the use of Kratom supplements to treat chronic pain can be dangerous and even deadly.

For many years, the leaves of the kratom tree have been used in Southeast Asia to treat aches and pains.

Here in the US, it can be purchased as a supplement in the form of a powder, pill or tea and it doesn’t require a prescription. It can act like a stimulant or a sedative, depending on the dose. According to the American Kratom Association, there are as many as 5 million people who’ve used it in the U.S. alone.

“The research that’s been done indicates that people are using kratom to help alleviate chronic pain, to treat mood disorders like anxiety and depression, and in some cases, to help wean themselves off of opioids," said Consumer Reports’ Jeneen Interlandi.

But the FDA says kratom isn’t just a plant -- it’s an opioid. And they warn it can be dangerous,   associating it with more than three dozen deaths.

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In addition, the CDC says it may be tied to a recent salmonella outbreak and at this point, they’re recommending people not consume kratom in any form. Consumer Reports also has concerns about its safety.

“Any given kratom product can be grossly mislabeled. It can be laced with other substances including illegal drugs and prescription medications and it can interact with other medications that you are taking in ways that are really dangerous,” Interlandi said.

The Drug Enforcement Agency has listed kratom as a “drug and chemical of concern” and at one point wanted to put it in the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy essentially banning it for consumers.

But the American Kratom Association argues that making the substance illegal could drive more people to prescription painkillers or illegal drugs to treat their symptoms.

The organization says they’ll support appropriate FDA regulations to ensure the safety and purity of kratom, but not a ban.

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It could be a few months or longer before they render a decision.  


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