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For those without health insurance, do not trust medical professionals or find a current treatment is not working, supplements seem like an alternative for relief. Yet, consumers may believe something labeled “all natural” is automatically healthy. As a result, they take something naturally occurring – like DMAA or the ingredients in energy drinks – only to experience life-threatening side effects.

Kratom – recently the subject of an FDA warning – falls into this category. Available in the U.S. for a few years, this dried and powdered plant, naturally occurring in parts of Southeast Asia, is said to help diminish pain and assist with opioid withdrawal. Yet, as a result of reported deaths and even more complaints involving Kratom’s health risks, the FDA advises against its use.

Background

Growing in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Kratom is sold in both powdered and capsule forms, which can be taken alone or steeped like tea. In small doses, the substance is said to mimic the effects of caffeine; larger ones have an effect similar to opioids or sedatives. In studying the substance, researchers found Kratom bonds to the same brain receptors as morphine, which explains its effects, but this also has a downside: Users can easily abuse or become dependent on the supplement.

On November 14, the FDA released a public health advisory about Mitragyna speciose (Kratom), stating the substance acts like and has similar side effects as opioid narcotics – including serious overdose risks. The warning came after 36 reported deaths from Kratom usage, as well as a three-year study about its effectiveness.

From 2010 through 2015, calls to U.S. poison control centers grew about 10 times, with hundreds of calls made per year. Initially, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) planned to ban Kratom in 2016 by classifying it as a Schedule I narcotic – a designation similar to heroin. Yet, supporters objected and signed a petition. In response, the DEA passed the substance’s management onto the FDA.

Since that point, the FDA undertook a three-year study to determine if, as Kratom’s supporters claim, it assists with breaking opioid addition. The FDA found no evidence of this association and started blocking imports containing this substance. To date, Kratom is still legal in most U.S. states and municipalities.

Details of the Lawsuit

While the FDA has not approved Kratom for any medical usage, it’s generally sought as an herbal remedy for treating pain, anxiety, depression, managing opioid withdrawal and certain psychological disorders. However, as the drug remains unregulated, versions may often contain an opioid, such as hydrocodone. As a result of the FDA’s recent warning, any place carrying Kratom must include a consumer advisory about its risks, which include subtance abuse, death, seizures and liver damage.