FDA cracks down on 'opioid-like' substance kratom

FDA cracks down on 'opioid-like' substance kratom
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A recent federal push is aimed to crack down on an herbal supplement called kratom, a botanical substance that grows naturally in Southeast Asia. Some states are working to ban the substance the Food and Drug Administration claims has similar effects as opioids.
The FDA also recently re-issued a statement on kratom, saying it presents a significant risk of exposure to salmonella.
The FDA classifies kratom as an opioid, claiming it has "opioid-like qualities." Noting it can be a dangerous and addictive substance. It’s been linked to severe health consequences and even death among users.
Despite these risks, kratom has been around for centuries and has been growing in popularity as a natural pain killer. You can find it at smoke shops, gas station, even online. It comes in a variety of forms like tea, capsules, and drops. Much like every drug, kratom can cause side effects when taken.

While some may say this product helps with their pain, Regional Medical Director for Doctors Care, Dr. Dennis Rhoades said the problem is, there just isn't enough research done and hasn't been scientifically proven to show it works.
“That is one of the problems, a lot of the things that you can get online really aren’t regulated… and it’s really one of those situations where you don’t know what’s the right dose… what’s the dose that’s going to get me a little bit high, what’s the dose that’s going to take care of my pain, what’s the dose that’s going to cause a seizure and I die? So, since it’s not regulated, it would be the same as just you know taking any medication off the shelf and say I’m just going to try this and see what it does for me—it’s dangerous, it’s not something you want to take,” said Rhoades.
Dr. Rhoades said there are several safer, approved options out there to treat pain.
“Basically, they’re just substituting one opioid for another… and that’s the problem we have with opioids in general. There are a lot of substances out there that people will try to use to get off the opioid – but it’s just proliferating the problem. You don’t always need an opioid when you have pain ... pain is something that tells us that something isn’t going right, and so if you just keep covering up pain with opioids, we’re realizing that wasn’t the best strategy of medicine, and we’re working to get people to think the other way you know-- ‘hey let’s try to do a more conscientious approach. Do you really need a pain medication and what’s the right pain medication?’” said Rhoades.
While some experts say kratom is not a safe substance to consume, some supporters claim it's changed their lives and even help with opioid addictions.
For years, a war has been brewing over kratom, and for one man who suffers from a genetic enzyme disorder, kratom did more than just ease pain. He says it changed his life, helping him kick his opioid addiction.
He's been prescribed opioids from a young age and like millions of people nationwide, became addicted. He said kratom didn't damage his body like the painkillers and says he hasn't touched opioids since.

It's sold legally in most states as a supplement or herbal medicine that users say can treat a variety of ailments, from pain to anxiety. But the federal government isn't buying it, saying in high doses, kratom acts like an opioid. Noting, it's unregulated and poorly studied.

Some users say it does have addictive properties, but it's nothing compared to how addictive opioids are today, comparing the addiction to be lower than cigarettes. Supporters say otherwise.
“So, if you’re dealing with something that can alleviate pain, extreme pain, but at the same time not have any addiction downfalls, bodily harm, internal, external-- like you can with ibuprofen or pain killers. Then I think it should be looked at, at least not make it illegal. That’s the part where I firmly disagree, where states are trying to impose laws to ban it, where it’s been increasingly shown to help with epidemics-- whether it be the prescription drug epidemic or the heroin epidemic. It seems to be a big help in a bunch of different areas. So, the very least that they could do is not ban what’s shown to be helping people,” said a kratom user and Myrtle Beach resident.

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