A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that kratom is linked to more overdose deaths than previously thought. Previously, kratom was linked to 44 overdose deaths nationwide. However, this recent report from the CDC found kratom was the cause of 91 overdose deaths in 27 states.1
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a plant that is native to Southeast Asia. It contains the alkaloid mitragynine, which, when consumed in low doses, can have a stimulant effect. When it is consumed in high doses, it can have opioid-like effects and affects the same opioid receptors in the brain as morphine.
Kratom use has recently grown in popularity in the U.S. and is marketed as a dietary and herbal supplement. While many proponents of the substance swear by its effectiveness to ease symptoms of fibromyalgia, treat or manage pain, or to reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal, research shows kratom has a potential for dependence and addiction.2,3
Kratom is not a controlled substance in the U.S., however, the FDA has issued warnings to consumers about kratom, citing “properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence.”4
Side Effects of Kratom
Currently, scientists aren’t sure of the long-term effects of kratom use on the human body and brain. However, the short-term effects of small doses of kratom can include:
- Increased feelings of happiness
- Decreased coordination
- Increased alertness
- Increased talkativeness and sociability
Large doses of kratom can produce other short-term side effects like:
- Feelings of calmness
According to the CDC, chronic kratom abuse can cause:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Liver damage
- Weight loss
- Concentration problems
Growing Safety Concerns About Kratom
In addition to causing more overdose deaths than originally thought, American poison control center calls have increased dramatically in recent years. Calls about kratom spiked from just 13 in 2011 to 682 in 2017, drawing more attention to this substance people are using for the self-treatment of pain and opioid withdrawal.1
Additionally, since many overdose deaths involving kratom also involve other addictive substances, the use of the supplement with addictive drugs and substances is a serious cause for concern among users.
While federal law currently doesn’t prohibit the use of kratom, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has identified kratom as a drug of concern and some states have classified it as a synthetic drug or have banned all use of it.
Although more research is needed to further understand kratom’s long-term effects on the human body, it’s safe to say that kratom may pose a significant risk for people who are prone to substance abuse, who use it in combination with other substances, or who use it regularly.