Colorado Coroners Link Kratom to At Least 23 Deaths Since 2016

DENVER — Kratom is an herbal supplement that some people use to combat opioid addictions. Users see it as a natural way to wean off drugs and claim it’s not addictive and can’t alone lead to death.

But 9NEWS requested autopsies from the last three years in the ten most populated Colorado counties. Kratom was found in a deceased person’s system at least 27 times during that period. Coroners identified kratom as contributing to an overdose 17 times, meaning other drugs may have worked with kratom to cause death.

“Kratom doesn’t kill. But if you ban kratom, you’re going to kill people and you’re going to kill them by driving them into illicit markets, drive them back to standard opioids,” said David Herman with the American Kratom Association, a group fighting the Food and Drug Administration’s attempts to make the plant from southeast Asia a schedule I drug.

Herman said coroners are reading into what he feels are misguided FDA warnings about the potential for abuse and harm and then pointing to kratom whenever it’s present during a death. He worries that a ban on kratom would also stunt the research currently being done, some funded by the AKA.

“If you make this a schedule I product, research pretty much stops. The cost of maintaining that license and getting good solid product will be tough for most scientists,” he said. “How much time did we lose on medical marijuana because it was a schedule I drug? And we’re finding tremendous uses for it today.”

The expensive studies that could come out of a schedule I designation do appeal to addiction specialists at UCHealth Center for Dependency, Addiction, and Rehabilitation (CeDAR).


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