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Is the Natural Herbal Supplement Kratom Really an Opioid?

Is kratom an opioid?A popular natural herb supplement is now considered an opioid and potentially dangerous. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning against the sale or use of the herbal supplement kratom and declared that it is an opioid.

Just What Is Kratom and What Is It Used For?

Botanically known as Mitragyna speciosa, Kratom is a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family (Rubiaceae).[1] It is said to grow in South East Asia, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia.

Kratom leaves have been used for centuries by Malaysian and Thai workers and natives. This is because of its stimulant effect, which is associated with increased energy, stamina, and decreased fatigue. Its use is now outlawed in some Southeast Asian countries.[2]

In the US, Kratom is used for managing chronic pain, muscle pain relief, and for treating opioid withdrawal symptoms. More recently, it has been used for recreational purposes due to its stimulating effects. Depending on dosage and strain, it can be a stimulant or sedative.

Other conditions kratom associate with treating include arthritis, fibromyalgia, mood disorders, and restless legs syndrome (RLS).

Kratom is available as an herbal supplement in powder form, in capsules or tea. But with recent FDA crackdown it may not be around much longer, at least not in stores.

But Is Kratom Really an Opioid?

Interestingly, though it has been used as part of treatment for opioid addiction, kratom is now classified as an opioid. The FDA recently declared it so. The agency based the classification on several scientific studies that suggested that the drug interacted in similarly to opioids in the brain, and even linked it to a number of deaths.

Ironically, many of the deaths the FDA associates with kratom appear to also involved prescription drugs, which are supposedly safer than kratom.

According to the Huffington Post, all but one the studies the FDA cited involve the presence of kratom alone. 9 of 36 deaths linked to kratom overdoses in Sweden, for instance, involved kratom-based product that had be adulterated with synthetic opioids. The report is also scanty on other details such as age and ethnicity of the subject.

All the same, the agency is candid enough to acknowledge the limitations the reporting systems used in reporting deaths linked to kratom use.

Side effects associated with kratom include sweating, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sweating and pupillary constriction.[3]

Some would argue that the herbal supplement is natural and therefore safe. You know, not unlike advocates for the legalization of the other herb, marijuana, which too is linked to medicinal properties. We here at prefer to remain neutral on this.

Suggested reading: Raw Cacao Powder: Superfood Turned Party Drug


[1] Wikipedia: Mitragyna speciosa

[2] Kratom

[3] The Effects of Kratom Use

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