Kratom is a tropical tree in South-East Asia. Its leaves have been used to relieve pain for hundreds of years. They can be eaten raw, but more often they are crushed and brewed as tea or turned into capsules , tablets, and liquids.
Kratom acts as a stimulant at low doses. It acts as a sedative in large amounts, and the DEA says it can lead to psychotic symptoms and psychological dependence. According to the CDC, about 42% of cases of kratom use reported between 2010 and 2015 involved non-life - threatening symptoms that required some treatment. Approximately 7% of exposures were classified as life-threatening and major. The DEA reports that it is aware of 15 kratom-related deaths between 2014 and 2016.
Kratom has been on the DEA list of drugs and chemicals of concern for several years. But the DEA notes that its use appears to be on the rise. Law enforcement agencies across the country seized more kratoms than ever before in the first half of 2016. U.S. poison control centers received 263 calls for kratom in 2015, a 10-fold increase from 2010, according to the CDC. Kratom sometimes has the following names: Biak, Ketum, Kakuam, Ithang and Thom.
Most people are taking kratom as a pill , capsule, or extract. Some people chew the kratom leaves or cook the dried or powdered leaves as tea. The leaves are sometimes smoked or eaten in food.
In mice, kratom targets a part of the brain that responds to drugs such as morphine, codeine, and fentanyl, according to a study published earlier this month by Susruta Majumdar, PhD, a researcher at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. These drugs are called opioids.
Majumdar's study found that, unlike morphine, a synthetic compound derived from kratom (mitragynine pseudoindoxyl) does not produce harmful side effects such as slow breathing — called respiratory depression — constipation and physical dependence. Since the majority of opioid overdose deaths are due to respiratory depression, he believes that kratom merits further study to see if some of its compounds can be used for medical benefits that are potentially less addictive.
There have been multiple reports of deaths in people who have ingested kratom, but most have been involved in other substances. A 2019 paper analyzing data from the National Poison Data System found that there were 11 deaths associated with kratom exposure between 2011 and 2017. Nine of the 11 deaths reported in this study included kratom plus other drugs and medicines such as diphenhydramine (an antihistamine), alcohol , caffeine, benzodiazepines, fentanyl and cocaine. Two deaths were reported following exposure from kratom alone with no other substances reported. * In 2017, the FDA identified at least 44 deaths related to kratom, with at least one case being investigated as possible use of pure kratom.
The FDA reports note that many of the kratom-associated deaths appear to have resulted from adulterated products or from the use of kratom with other potent substances, including illicit drugs, opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, gabapentin, and over-the-counter drugs such as cough syrup. There have also been some reports of kratom packaged as dietary supplements or dietary ingredients laced with other compounds that have caused death. People should check with their health care providers about the safety of Kratom mixing with other medicines.
In recent years, some people have used kratom as a herbal alternative to medical treatment to control withdrawal symptoms and cravings caused by opioid dependence or other addictive substances such as alcohol. There is no scientific evidence that kratom is effective or safe for this purpose; further research is required.
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