This natural supplement has been used for thousands of years in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand. Its effects in low doses may be positive, but in high doses it is potentially deadly, warn the American authorities.
Kratom is a plant of the coffee family, but it requires much more care than a relative full of caffeine. The problems it is causing in the United States have led authorities to issue an alert about its use.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the country published last week the results of a study that shows that in July 2016 and December 2017 alone, this plant, marketed as a natural supplement, caused the death of 91 people.
Besides, the substance was found, together with other drugs, in the body of 61 people killed by overdose.
Although these cases represent a minimal part of total drug overdose deaths in the United States (1%), the authorities are concerned about the increase in such situations.
The Center has examined more than 27,000 cases of overdose in 27 American states.
In approximately 80% of the deaths by kratom or in those where the supplement appeared, the deceased had a history of substance abuse and in approximately 90% of them did not receive medical treatment for pain with medical supervision (the plant also has analgesic properties).
In 2016, Russ Baer, spokesman for the U.S. Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in a conversation with the BBC World, a Spanish-speaking service of the BBC, recognized only two cases of kratom overdose in the United States.
This plant extract, which is sold without prescription to any phytotherapist, contains mitragyna, an active ingredient with stimulating effects.
In low doses, it can work as a very strong coffee cup that helps you stay awake and have more energy.
In high doses, however, its effects are more similar to those of any opioid, such as morphine.
In addition, said the U.S. agency, there are studies that indicate that it is a substance with the potential to develop dependency.
But its popularity has continued to grow and its advocates claim that the authorities have no reliable scientific data to justify the warning.
That’s what the American Kratom Association says.
“Numerous animal studies have shown that kratom has very low toxicity,” explained Charles M. Haddow, a member of the association and responsible for its public relations in a statement.
In these studies, he added, even “extremely high doses (doses that when adjusted for human consumption would be difficult to consume) do not cause death or significant toxic effects.
This call for attention from the authorities comes at a time when the United States is facing a public health emergency due to the use of opioids – an epidemic that has already left more deaths than the war in Vietnam and Afghanistan combined.
In this context, kratom is seen as a substance that helps manage the detoxification of opioids such as OxyContin and Percocet.
Its pain relieving properties mitigate the effects of withdrawal syndrome.
But the FDA remains concerned about the use of this supplement as an alternative to analgesics.
“Neither kratom nor its compounds have been shown to be safe and effective for any purpose, and should not be used to treat any condition or disease,” he said.
Many people also use this substance to give up heroin, alcohol and even tobacco addiction, according to a study by the Transnational Institute, located in the Netherlands.
What are its effects?
Kratom is a deciduous plant (which, in a certain season of the year, loses its leaves) used for thousands of years in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand.
Its leaves are consumed as tea or crushed and mixed with water, although there are also capsules.
A study by the Transnational Institute states that kratom can cause positive effects such as euphoria, relaxation, sociability, increased energy and pain relief.
Among the negative effects are nausea, stomach pain, chills and sweating, dizziness and instability, vomiting and itching.
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