- Recent investigations reveal that 91 U.S. citizens had fatal overdoses where the herbal drug Kratom played a contributing role over an 18-month window.
- Despite being implicated in less than 1% of fatal overdose cases, Kratom’s lethal potential is suggested to be underestimated due to postmortem tests possibly failing to detect the drug.
- With its legality across the US and increasing use among drug addicts, Kratom usage raises serious concerns, especially by individuals seeking relief from chronic pain, leading to a higher probability of overdosing.
- The U.S. FDA warns against Kratom usage for its ‘opiate-like’ effect and has not approved it for any medical uses, but it remains widely used due to misconceptions of safety because of its natural origins.
- Reports of Kratom overdoses have significantly increased, underlining the need to separate the concept of “natural” from “harmless” and enforce public health education initiatives.
Despite the widely held public perception of herbal drug Kratom being safe, fresh investigations have revealed alarming facts. Over an 18-month window, it was discovered that 91 U.S. citizens had passed away due to fatal overdoses where the herbal drug played a contributing role.
Postmortem examinations revealed Kratom as the solitary drug detected in seven out of this fatal cases, according to the latest findings from a team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Study Methodology
The study relied on data drawn from a federal drug-overdose database. The artwork comprised every known fatal drug overdose from across 27 states, spanning July 2016 to December 2017.
In addition to the 91 fatalities where Kratom usage was established as a contributing factor, victims in another 61 fatal drug overdoses were found with Kratom in their bloodstreams. However, it was speculated that other drugs could have caused these deaths, as per a team spearheaded by Emily O’ Malley Olsen from the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Understanding the Kratom Overdose Phenomenon
Kratom was implicated in fewer than 1% of the more than 27,000 fatal ODs exhaustively documented in the fresh study, but this low percentage is not indicative of its lethal potential. Postmortem tests may have failed to detect the presence of Kratom in many cases, leading to these starkly low estimates – indicative of the disturbing potential of Kratom-related fatalities.
Kratom’s Rising Appeal Amongst Drug Addicts
Kratom, a legal purchase across the United States, is being increasingly imbibed by drug addicts. An emergency medicine physician has reported that nearly 80% of persons who died from Kratom had a history of substance misuse.
Of the Kratom-related fatal overdoses, 65% involved victims who had also consumed the often-fatal opioid fentanyl. Heroin was discovered in the system in about 33% of these Kratom-associated deaths.
The Misdirected Use of Kratom
Among the lesser known aspects of Kratom usage is its perceived ability to alleviate pain. Despite this, almost 90% of people who overdosed from Kratom were not receiving any medical treatment for pain.
This raises serious concerns about misuse of Kratom by individuals looking for relief from chronic pain. This level of self-medication, especially with increasing doses, makes users more susceptible to overdose.
Legal & Medical Regulation
Due to its potential for generating an ‘opiate-like’ effect or ‘high’ at high doses, Kratom has attracted the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Its usage has been warned against by the FDA, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has classified it as a ‘drug of concern.’
Notably, the FDA has not approved Kratom for any medical applications.
Kratom Use on the Rise
Data from U.S. poison control hotlines indicated that calls regarding Kratom overdoses have dramatically increased, growing 50-fold from 2011 to 2016. Positive detections of Kratom use have surged, leading to cases numbering in the hundreds annually.
Kratom is being lauded as a safe substitute to opioid painkillers for people dealing with chronic pain, which is a troublesome trend. It being a plant and therefore “natural”, leads to a widely held belief of it being safe and hence remains unregulated. However, an overdose may result in unintended health complications like agitation, seizures, rapid heart rate and high blood pressure. Extreme cases can lead to comas, cessation of breathing or even kidney failure.
The Final Summary
It is essential to distance the association of “natural” from “harmless”. Natural substances, like Kratom, can have deleterious effects when misused. As more findings come to light, these could form the foundation of future public health education initiatives.
For more information about Kratom, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.