FDA warns of safety risks associated with Kratom - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

FDA warns of safety risks associated with Kratom

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There is a supplement you can buy online and in some Valley stores called Kratom. 

People are using the botanical substance to treat everything from pain to opioid addiction. But the FDA warns that it acts like an opioid and can lead to addiction and even death.

For hundreds of years people in Southeast Asia have turned to the leaves of the Kratom tree and now it's estimated millions of Americans take it as a supplement.

"I take it myself. I've taken some today. I have some joint issues in my left hand," explained David Herman, the chair of the American Kratom Association. 

"And I can give you tale after tale of people with fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, chronic pain that anecdotally tell us this helped me," he explained.

People are even using it to treat opioid addiction. But the FDA is warning people not to take Kratom at all, citing concerning reports about its safety and how it affects the same opioid receptors in the brain as morphine.

The FDA is worried that Kratom could lead users to become addicted to it and there are no clinical data on its medical use in humans 

"It has been found that, just like opioid medications, it can lead to things such as abuse, addiction, and dependence. So while people think it may be helping them, it may actually be harming," said Hometown Pharmacy pharmacist Caitlin Sabol.

The FDA cites serious side effects including seizures, respiratory depression, withdrawal symptoms and even 44 deaths but most of those deaths are also disputed by critics who point to other drugs and factors that could be related.

"The DEA is looking at it as a drug or chemical of concern," said Sabol. 

The DEA moved to ban the botanical substance temporarily in 2016 but rescinded that plan after public backlash and is now going through the traditional process of deciding whether to make it a schedule one drug like heroin. 

"All nine scientists said no don't ban this we have a deeper concern than that. Kratom doesn't kill but if you ban it people are going to die, it's going to throw people back into an opioid need, it's going to make it a black market product," Herman said.

The FDA said there is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use. 

The agency stands by its findings that kratom is not just a plant but an opioid itself.

Just five days ago, a producer of Kratom supplements, Badger Botanicals, issued a recall because the products were potentially contaminated with salmonella. This comes on the heels of the FDA and CDC also announcing last month that the agencies are investigating a multi-state outbreak of salmonella infections linked to products reported to contain Kratom.

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