Is Kratom as Dangerous as the FDA Claims? It’s Hard to Tell

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MedShadow occasionally runs “First Person” articles that give personal perspective on a particular drug, supplement, medical or health issue. The one we ran last Thursday, which dealt with a Navy vet’s experience using the herb kratom, has generated a lot of attention on MedShadow’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

And in the spirit of transparency, in a February news release, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that the agency has received reports of 44 deaths associated with kratom. The agency has also expressed concern about the herb’s opioid-like qualities. And over the last month, it has issued several recalls of kratom products over possible salmonella contamination.

The debate over kratom has heated up over the last 6 months or so. And throughout this time, I have wondered whether kratom is really potentially dangerous. At the same time, I’ve wanted to know what the evidence is on the herb’s medical usefulness, and what the research says.

Oliver Grundmann, PhD, with the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, said that even though kratom interacts with opioid receptors in a similar way that opioid pain drugs do, the effects the herb and the opioid meds have on the body are different.

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