The popular botanical drug kratom is an opioid, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared Tuesday.
Nearly all of kratom’s major compounds bind to opioid receptors in the human brain, and two of the top five most prevalent compounds activate those receptors, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
In addition, there have been 44 reported deaths associated with the use of kratom, often in combination with other substances, Gottlieb said.
Kratom grows naturally in the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It has been sold as a dietary supplement to help manage pain and boost energy.
“Kratom should not be used to treat medical conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to prescription opioids,” Gottlieb said. “There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use.”
Claims that kratom is harmless because it’s just a plant are “shortsighted and dangerous,” Gottlieb continued, noting that heroin also is derived from poppy plants.
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