In a new study, researchers found that the herb kratom is increasingly being used to manage pain and treat opioid addiction, but it’s not safe to use as an herbal supplement.
The research was conducted by a team from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Kratom is an herbal supplement derived from a plant that grows throughout Southeast Asia.
It is well-reported that the active chemicals in the plant act on opioid receptors in the body.
Many people use the supplement to treat/prevent withdrawal, treat opioid use disorder, or treat pain.
In the study, the team wanted to better assess whether or not kratom is safe enough to be used as an herbal supplement.
They did a review of kratom use reported to the National Poison Data System to determine the health effects of kratom.
They reviewed a total of 2312 kratom exposures. Among them, 935 cases involved kratom as the only substance.
The team found that Kratom most commonly caused agitation (18.6%), tachycardia (16.9%), drowsiness (13.6%), vomiting (11.2%), and confusion (8.1%).
Serious effects of the seizure (6.1%), withdrawal (6.1%), hallucinations (4.8%), respiratory depression (2.8%), coma (2.3%), and cardiac or respiratory arrest (0.6%) were also reported.
In addition, kratom was listed as a cause or contributing factor in the death of four decedents identified by the County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The findings suggest kratom is not reasonably safe and poses a public health threat due to its availability as an herbal supplement.
The team says that although kratom is not as strong as some other prescription opioids, it does still act as an opioid in the body.
In larger doses, it can cause slowed breathing and sedation, meaning that patients can develop the same toxicity they would if using another opioid product. It may also cause seizures and liver toxicity.
Kratom may have a role in treating pain and opioid use disorder, but more research is needed on its safety and efficacy.
The lead author of the study is William Eggleston, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Binghamton University.
The study is published in Pharmacotherapy.