If you've never heard of kratom, it is a supplement that has been marketed for the purposes of treating everything from chronic pain and mood swings to withdrawals from opioids. However, kratom has been at the center of a spate of recent controversies, one of which being that the supplement itself is now being considered a sort of opiate by the FDA due to its potentially addictive properties.
kratom has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia. Here in the U.S., it can be found wherever pipes and other tobacco products are sold. And, just like tobacco, in can be purchased in several forms, from pills to loose leaves and chewing gum.
The price for kratom is about what you would expect for a supplement: typically, $25 for a bottle of 50 pills. However, here's the scary part: customers are expected to figure out their own dosage that works for them. Yikes.
Ask anyone on the street if they've heard of kratom, and they'll probably tell you they haven't. However, an estimated three to five million people in the U.S. have consumed kratom in one form or another. And if we are now going to characterize kratom as an opioid, this adds up to another five million potential addicts to an opioid crisis that truly does not need any help in that department.
Addiction is a concern, but fatal overdoses more so, with kratom already been linked to over three dozen overdoses. The CDC has also linked kratom to a recent salmonella outbreak and, in light of these two realizations, is asking the public not to consume any form of kratom whatsoever. It is, per the FDA, a dangerous substance that people should steer far clear of.
In lower doses, kratom is said to act like a mild stimulant, like the kind of boost you would get from a cup of coffee. However, in higher doses, that's when kratom switches over from that friendly pick-me-up to a dangerous opioid that can hook you and potentially kill you.
Side effects associated with kratom include:
Some of the more serious side effects that have been linked to kratom include seizures and liver damage. While kratom appears to be dangerous, it may not be as fast-acting as stronger opioids, like heroin. For instance, most people who call poison control or who go to the ER for their symptoms typically have mild to moderate reactions to the drug, whereas those who are suffering from a heroin overdose are often unconscious and cannot take themselves to the ER.
While it is recommended that kratom be avoided at all costs, it is doubly advised that kratom not be purchased online. Because it is unregulated, it can be produced at varying strengths, making one bottle stronger than the next, and because anyone can add anything to the supplement before it gets to you.
Some folks are comforted by the fact that kratom is derived from a plant, which makes it "natural" and therefore "safe." However, experts in the field warn that heroin too is derived from a plant, and heroin is the farthest thing from "safe."