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FDA Issues Warning on Popular Herb From Southeast Asia

mitragyna speciosa korth (kratom) a drug from plant
We’re doing it wrong, apparently

WASHINGTON — While one type of weed’s fortunes grow, another with a long medicinal tradition in Asia, kratom is the target of a new warning by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Consumption of kratom, a plant used medicinally for two centuries in Southeast Asia for its analgesic and restorative properties, has been increasing in the United States. The FDA, however, warns that it is highly addictive, poisonous and potentially fatal, especially in the way Americans have been using it.

A number of shipments of the herbal weed have been seized and destroyed at international mail facilities, according to the Associated Press.

“The FDA must use its authority to protect the public from addictive substances like kratom, both as part of our commitment to stemming the opioid epidemic and preventing another from taking hold,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

At least 36 people have died from kratom use, according to the FDA, which cited an increase in kratom-related episodes at poison control centers between 2010 and 2015. The FDA claims that kratom is being mixed with opioids such as oxycodone, the main ingredient of OxyContin, a common cause of overdose deaths. Kratom is legal under federal law, but the plant has been banned in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

In Malaysia and Thailand, kratom is used to ease pain, anxiety and kick drug addiction. Kratom is widely used in the Thai south, despite being illegal. Thailand’s military government has signaled that it is looking into legalizing the drug following a review of its failed drug policies, which included making cannabis available for medical use.

Last October, there was a push to ban kratom by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which argued that it be classified as Schedule 1 alongside marijuana, heroin and LSD. The plan failed after a letter was drafted by 62 members of Congress, and a protest was held at the White House by the American Kratom Association. The association said that classifying kratom as an illegal substance would undermine medical research into its therapeutic uses.

Despite its strict warnings on kratom use, an FDA spokeswoman said that the agency is still reviewing the drug, with no deadlines set on scientific research.

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Connor Narciso

The author Connor Narciso

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