Baby suffers Withdraw From Kratom Tea

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(CNN) — The woman had used oxycodone for almost a decade but told her doctors she had been sober for two years. She never touched narcotics during her pregnancy, she said and had completed rehab.

But her newborn son was in withdrawal: jittery, screaming and requiring an infusion of morphine to stay alive. The infant craved drugs, but why?

Amid an opioid epidemic, the boy’s doctors didn’t blame heroin, fentanyl or other illicit substances. Instead, they said, the infant had grown dependent on a controversial herbal supplement: kratom.

According to a case report published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics, both the unnamed woman and her infant passed urine drug screens that looked explicitly for oxycodone and other opioids. But those tests didn’t look for kratom, a legal drug that has opioid-like effects at high doses.

“I fear that women making genuine commitments to overcome their dependency may develop a false sense of safety by using a substance that is advertised as a non-opioid alternative,” said Dr. Whitney Eldridge, a neonatologist for BayCare Health System in Florida who was the lead author on the case report.

The mother might have been well-intentioned, but because tests showed no other drugs in her or the infant, her doctors said kratom probably caused her son’s condition, known clinically as neonatal abstinence syndrome. On his eighth day of life, after he had been weaned off opioids and observed without any medications, the boy was discharged to his parents.

It’s rare, but FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement that “this case is not unique.” He said the FDA “is aware of four other cases involving neonates exposed to kratom while in utero who experienced neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome after term delivery.”

Despite the FDA’s warnings, kratom is easy to buy and is sometimes sold as a tea in cafés. The nonprofit American Kratom Association estimates that 3 million to 5 million Americans use the substance, and the group says it’s open to warning labels on kratom products.

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