- Kratom, a substance derived from a plant in the coffee family, has been touted to boost mood and energy, relieve pain and help reduce addiction.
- A new study has established a link between the use of self-reported kratom and various adverse effects, including confusion, vomiting and, in rare cases, death.
- Kratom is widely available as a powder, capsule or tea in many states and online. Like CBD, it has not been regulated yet. It is therefore difficult for users to know the right dose or even what they get.
- The researchers say that even if there is therapeutic potential, this is not a safe substitute for evidence-based treatments.
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Kratom, a psychoactive substance derived from a member of the coffee tree family, is a trend in vogue in the world of herbal supplements, designed to treat everything from pain addiction to trouble. of post-traumatic stress.
However, the widespread availability of kratom and the lack of regulation have drawn the attention of the medical community – and its use has been linked to serious health problems, according to a new study.
Research published in June in the journal Pharmacotherapy reviewed over 2,000 calls to the National Poison Control Center involving the use of kratom. Of the 935 calls in which kratom was the only substance involved, the most common symptoms were relatively mild, such as agitation and drowsiness. Some people, however, have reported vomiting, confusion and, rarely, convulsions, respiratory or cardiac arrest and, in one case, death.
Read more: A decision is imminent on the legality of a controversial drug used to treat addiction – but some have called it a "dangerous opioid."
Among the calls involving the use of kratom and other potential toxins, reports of side effects tended to be more serious overall. In some cases, kratom users have reported seizures or symptoms of psychosis. In three cases, kratom contributed to death, although other drugs, including alcohol, prescription drugs and cocaine were also implicated.
A small subgroup of patients also reported withdrawal symptoms after kratom use.
"What we found was alarming for a product widely available as an herbal supplement," said pharmacist William Eggleston, lead author of the study and clinical assistant professor at the pharmacy school. and Pharmaceutical Sciences of the University of Binghamton.
The study relied on self-reported data and did not include the amount of kratom uptake by users.
Kratom has long been used as a drug and recreational drug
The kratom comes from the plant Mitragyna speciosa, native to Southeast Asia, where it has been used for a long time as a medicinal drug and for recreational purposes. The plant contains more than 50 chemical compounds that could affect the brain and body, but the details are largely unknown.
Research suggests that some compounds act on opioid receptors as a stimulant in small amounts, but that higher doses would reduce pain and cause feelings of well-being, relaxation or drowsiness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Sold as an online herbal supplement and in tobacco shops, kratom has been the subject of much controversy: it has been targeted by the US Food and Drug Administration and is linked to possible outbreaks of salmonella. The Drug Enforcement Agency has attempted to classify it as an Annex I drug (the strictest legal restriction on substances banned for a recognized medical use and with a high potential for abuse), alongside heroin and LSD, but receded after an unexpected public outcry.
The attorneys said the kratom was unjustly targeted and that it was used safely by millions of Americans for purposes of relaxation or pain relief. Even with current data, the side effects and deaths due to kratom seem pale compared to other drugs, including alcohol, the Washington Post reported a thorough study on kratom user experiences.
Kratom's lack of regulation is part of what makes him potentially dangerous
Kratom, like all herbal supplements, is largely unregulated, making it difficult to know for sure what you are getting or what the appropriate dose is, Eggleston said. "These products do not always contain what is announced," he said.
In addition, because of the FDA crackdown, vendors began to protect themselves by labeling products "for human consumption" and by refusing to offer instructions for use, further increasing the risk of human consumption. Ingestion of a dangerous quantity.
But the main concern, Eggleston said, is that we still do not know enough about kratom. While the two compounds that act on opioid receptors act less dramatically than prescription drugs or illicit drugs, making it safer than most opioids, there is not enough research to support its benefits, nor even those who defend his claims.
"The risk is twofold – we still do not know how potentially dangerous it is and how effective it is," said Eggleston, explaining that kratom is often touted as an inexpensive alternative to more expensive or less accessible treatments. . "There is a risk that people using kratom for serious medical conditions will receive inferior treatment."
"We are not saying that no one should use kratom or that it should be banned as a Schedule I drug," he added. "People looking for treatment options deserve safe, evidence-based treatment, and kratom is not there yet."
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