- Kratom, a botanical supplement often used for pain relief and addiction, has been linked to serious side effects like seizures and increased heart rate, as per a recent study.
- Data from poison control centers shows a significant increase in calls regarding Kratom usage, from 18 in 2011 to 357 in just the first seven months of 2018.
- Half of the cases of Kratom usage involve the substance being consumed in a pill, capsule, or powder format, and the majority of adverse effects were reported by the individuals who consumed it.
- The study’s critics argue that while Kratom does pose a risk for addiction similar to other opioids, data is likely distorted due to overemphasis on Kratom in cases of multiple substance consumption.
- Instead of banning Kratom, the emphasis should be on conducting clinical trials to determine its efficacy in treating chronic pain and addiction and to ascertain safe specific dosage levels.
The botanical supplement Kratom often leads to serious side effects and its safety is questionable, suggests a newly conducted study.
Kratom, which is processed from the foliage of a plant native to Southeast Asia, is usually used for pain relief and addiction. However, data from poison control centers indicates that it has been linked to seizures, withdrawal symptoms, hallucinations, increased heart rate, and restlessness, the investigators highlight.
The Opioid-like Properties of Kratom
Kratom contains compounds that engage with the opioid receptors in the brain and body, states the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Despite its legal status as a botanical supplement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cautioned against the usage of Kratom. This substance has been labeled by the FDA as an “opioid-like” drug with potential addiction risks.
Increased Reports Related to Kratom Usage
In the freshly conducted study, poison control centers registered over 2,300 calls regarding Kratom from 2011 to 2018.
= ?>These Kratom-related calls rose from a mere 18 in the year 2011 to 357 in just the first seven months of 2018, as per the figures from the U.S. National Poison Data System. The team focused on 935 cases where Kratom was the only substance involved.
Findings on Kratom Usage
About half of the cases included Kratom consumed in a pill, capsule, or powder format, and in nearly 9 out of 10 cases, individuals consumed the Kratom that affected them.
The most frequently reported adverse effects were restlessness (almost 20% of cases), quickened heart rate (17%), sleepiness (14%), and nausea (11%), the research revealed.
Some severe side effects included seizures (6%), hallucinations (5%), respiratory depression (3%), and a state of unconsciousness (2%). Cardiac or respiratory arrest was identified in 0.6% of cases.
Tragically, the researchers also spotted four cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome where newborns suffered Kratom addiction because their mothers consumed the supplement during their pregnancy. These cases led to two fatalities.
Kratom’s Risk Comparison with Other Opioids
The U.S. National Poison Data System statistics suggest that Kratom’s risk for fatal overdose is relatively low compared to opioids such as heroin or fentanyl. “The risk of severe respiratory depression is probably lower with Kratom than with other opioids,” adding that their findings showed a very low incidence. However, other studies have exhibited that users can experience withdrawal symptoms, indicating the potential for dependence or a substance use disorder, similar to other opioids.
Intersection of Kratom and Multiple Drugs
Critics of the new study argue that the results are flawed due to the dependency on poison control and medical examiner data, which primarily suspects Kratom and may overlook other plausible explanations.
“If Kratom is discovered in the bloodstream post-mortem, it is categorized as a Kratom-related death,” stated a public policy senior fellow. “It’s equally conceivable that caffeine could be recognized in the bloodstream as a result of a morning cup of coffee.”
According to an associate professor at a pharmacy college, while the new study does contribute to the evidence regarding Kratom’s safety, its reliance on poison control center data lends to a potentially distorted approach.
Available data indicates that Kratom is likely safer than prescription and illegal opioids, but addiction remains a likely concern. Furthermore, it’s important to note that Kratom-related deaths are likely not caused by Kratom alone, but Kratom in combination with other substances. “Users often consume multiple drugs, and it’s the synergy between these drugs that results in toxicity,” the professor noted.
The Proposed Regulation of Kratom
While a ban on Kratom is not advocated for, studies do suggest it may have utility in treating chronic pain and addiction. Instead, the application of clinical trials is necessary to determine its efficacy for possible treatments and ascertain its safety at specific dosages. “We aim to provide the public with all necessary information in a transparent manner, so they know what works and what’s safe,” said the lead researcher.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse provides more detailed information about kratom.