After confiscating $3 million worth of kratom, the FDA continues to warn of its dangers

After confiscating $3 million worth of kratom, the FDA continues to warn of its dangers

Last week, us marines confiscated an estimated $3 million worth of kratom that was being sold as a supplement by an Oklahoma-based company.

This isn't the first time authorities have seized kratom, which the Food and Drug Administration considers a "drug of concern." Still, the incident highlights continued demand for the drug, even as the Food and Drug Administration continues to warn of its potential risks.

Kratom is a plant that grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea and has a long history of use in Southeast Asia. It is not approved in the United States for any purpose, but millions of Americans take it for myriad reasons, saying it boosts energy, treats pain, and anxiety, provides a high, and even relieves symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

However, the US Food and Drug Administration maintains that the drug is unsafe.

"There are no, and never have been, FDA-approved uses for kratom," Lauren G. McCarthy, FDA press officer, told NBC News in an emailed statement, "and the agency has received reports regarding the safety of kratom.".

In 2016, the DEA moved to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has no medical uses and has a high potential for abuse, but it reversed course after a public outcry. Kratom remains unregulated at the federal level, but five states ban the substance, according to the American Kratom Association, which advocates for access to kratom in the United States.

In an April 2022 statement, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public against using kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, which is the plant's scientific name, saying the substance "affects brain opioid receptors like morphine" and appears to have "properties that put users at risk." Addiction, abuse, and dependence."

In the same statement, the agency said it is "actively evaluating all available scientific information on this issue and continues to warn consumers against using any products classified as containing the plant substance kratom or its psychoactive compounds, mitragynine, and 7-hydroxy mitragynine."

McCarthy said that in the year since that alert was issued, the agency has not come across any data that would warrant kratom's approval as a drug.

"The concern is real," said Dr. Alan Kay, a professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology at LSU in Shreveport, Louisiana.

"Kartum has several pharmacological effects, one activating opioid receptors," Kaye said. "This gives an analgesic effect but can also lead to addiction."

He said the molecules in kratom also bind to serotonin receptors and block calcium channels, preventing calcium from entering the cells of the heart and arteries, which is how drugs used to lower blood pressure work.

"When you have an herbal product like this used as a sedative and psychological stimulator, it's up for abuse," said Kay. "It is not surprising that there have been cases of poisoning and death, a growing public health concern."

A 2022 study found that nearly one-third of people in the United States who use kratom met the criteria for kratom use disorder, which included increased use, tolerance, withdrawal, unsuccessful quit attempts, and craving.

In recent years, research has also linked kratom to liver damage and death but acknowledged that the plant is a safer option for pain management than opioids.

A 2021 review published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology noted that research has found that kratom can relieve pain and induce mild euphoria, with a lower risk of negative respiratory and nervous system effects than traditional opioids. However, its use has been associated with liver toxicity, seizures, and death. A 2020 study also found that kratom users in the United States are typically more likely to use drugs than people who use cannabis, alcohol, or cigarettes.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says on its website that harmful side effects of kratom are rare but serious and include psychiatric, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and respiratory problems. They note that only a very small number of deaths have been linked to kratom and that almost all of the deaths involved other drugs or pollutants — which Kay said is one of the major concerns about kratom in the United States.

Unregulated supplements and medications do not have specific standards or government-issued monitoring for their safety, and concerns about kratom purity and toxicity in the United States led to a 2022 FDA alert. Four years ago, the FDA issued a mandatory recall of kratom products after the Salmonella outbreaks were linked to kratom sold by Triangle Pharmanaturals, LLC.

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