Herbal healing drug linked to 36 deaths, experts warn

Herbal healing drug linked to 36 deaths, experts warn

The warning comes amid an increase in popularity in the US, where kratom is touted as a treatment for pain, anxiety, depression and even as an opioid alternative.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb discusses the agency's public health advisory related to mounting concerns regarding risks associated with the use of kratom.

Pamela Day, who started using kratom a couple of months ago, said it brings her relief from debilitating pain from Rocky Mountain spotted fever, allowing her to go off her other pain medications. It was the same friend Ziehm called to get his final dose of heroin, George said.

"They tried to schedule it as a Schedule 1 past year, and a lot of people signed petitions to try and save kratom, and that worked in our favor because it's still legal as of now", Hargrove said.

Ashel Kreutzkamp, Nurse Manager at St. Elizabeth Health Care, compared a recovering addict using kratom to a game of Russian roulette. Taking kratom is also linked to serious side effects like seizures, liver damage, and withdrawal symptoms.

The agency does, however, regulate what sellers can say about it: that means no medical advice.

Whether kratom will eventually be banned, however, depends on the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"Definitely in the past two years, I've seen a lot more interest in kratom", said Susan Hargrove, owner of Smoke Signals Pipe & Tobacco. "Importantly, evidence shows that kratom has similar effects to narcotics like opioids, and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and in some cases, death". Until someone does the science the agency is requesting, the FDA will attempt to prevent shipments of kratom from entering the US. "At a time when we have hit a critical point in the opioid epidemic", the FDA statement said, "the increasing use of kratom as an alternative or adjunct to opioid use is extremely concerning". However, backlash from groups like the American Kratom Association and the Botanical Education Alliance was so strong that the DEA abandoned the process. After a public outcry, the DEA chose to postpone its decision, and asked the FDA to weigh in. "I encourage you to conduct the research that will help us better understand kratom's risk and benefit profile, so that well-studied and potentially beneficial products can be considered", he said.

The FDA said America has "learned a tragic lesson from the opioid crisis" and now we must pay early attention to the potential for new products to cause the same sort of addiction.

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