Kratom – a herbal supplement used to manage chronic pain and treat opioid addiction – is more dangerous than previously suspected, according to a new study associating with dangerous side effects, even to death.
Researchers at Binghamton University reviewed National Poison Data System statistics and found that more than 2,300 people had called poison control centers across the United States to voice concerns about kratom-related illness. The most commonly reported symptoms were agitation, rapid heartbeat and drowsiness. However, others have reported more serious symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations and even comas.
"One can not reasonably expect kratom to be safe and pose a risk to public health because of its availability as an herbal supplement," concluded a June study in the journal Pharmacotherapy .
The coroner determined that the supplement was a cause or contributing factor to the death in four cases, according to the records of the New York County County Medical Examiner's Office.
Kratom was a cause of 91 overdose deaths in 27 states from July 2016 to December 2017, cited the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
"What we found is alarming for something that is widely available as an herbal supplement," said William Eggleston, lead author of the study.
In addition, the results of the study indicated that the supplement exposed patients to the risk of withdrawal, respiratory depression and death.
The study did not examine the amount of Kratom taken by the users.
In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration issued a health advisory regarding the "fatal risks" associated with kratom.
The supplement, which is legal in New York, is sold as capsules and powders that has recently gained popularity for what users tout are its multiple benefits.
"Kratom may play a role in treating pain and disorders related to opioid use, but additional studies are needed on its safety and effectiveness," Eggleston said in a statement.
"Our results suggest that it should not be available as an herbal supplement," he added.
Kratom is derived from the Mitragyna speciosa plant native to Southeast Asia.