The number of deaths associated with kratom appears to be rising.
A new report by the CDC analyzed data from 27 states on 27,338 overdose deaths between July 2016 and December 2017. A small number was attributed to kratom.
“Kratom was determined to be a cause of death (i.e., kratom-involved) by a medical examiner or coroner for 91 of the 152 kratom-positive decedents, including seven for whom kratom was the only substance to test positive on postmortem toxicology, although the presence of additional substances cannot be ruled out,” the report read.
The herbal supplement credited with helping recovery from substance use disorder has been targeted as a “drug of concern” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Some people in recovery say the plant, native to Southeast Asia, was vital to their recovery from drugs and alcohol, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more. But with every success story, there is a person struggling to quit kratom as well.
A majority of the kratom-involved deaths involved people with a history of substance use disorder. A significant majority of the kratom-positive decedents were Caucasian.
The data also showed that “multiple substances [were] detected for almost all decedents.” The most common were fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, then heroin, benzodiazepines and prescription opioids.
The FDA has railed hard against kratom, stating last year that “compounds in kratom make it so it isn’t just a plant—it’s an opioid.”
The February 2018 statement cited 44 deaths associated with kratom use. Prior to that, in a November 2017 advisory, the FDA reported 36 deaths related to kratom.
The FDA said it is “especially concerned” about people who use kratom to treat opioid withdrawal, and though it states that it is open to reviewing evidence that kratom does have healing properties, it so far has not come across any “that would meet the agency’s standard for approval,” and warns against using kratom to treat medical conditions or as an alternative to prescription opioids.
“While kratom may have useful effects, right now, it’s wholly unregulated,” Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center, told ABC News.
Only a few U.S. states have outright banned the plant. Some states are considering legislation to regulate the plant, rather than prohibiting it.
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