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FDA Warns Against Kratom Use, Steps Up On Import Security

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The US Food and Drug Administration warned consumers not to use the popular but unapproved herbal supplement kratom for opioid addiction, announcing that it will put stricter restrictions in place.

The FDA cited 36 deaths associated with kratom, which advocates say can help ease symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Critics, however, argue that the substance can lead to addiction and death, USA Today reports.

Kratom is a plant that grows in parts of Asia, available in the United States as a dietary supplement. It is also sold in smoke shops and as a tea.  The FDA says that kratom products have been crossing into the country in larger amounts, prompting action from the agency.

Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, said,

At a time when we have hit a critical point in the opioid epidemic, the increasing use of kratom as an alternative or adjunct to opioid use is extremely concerning.

The FDA places import alerts on kratom in 2012 and 2014, allowing FDA agents to detain products containing the substance. Thousands of raw kratom and dietary pills were seized by US Marshals.

Gottlieb said that he may ask Congress for more authority and power to continue fighting the opioid epidemic, which means stepped-up enforcement at US borders for illegal narcotics and controlled substances, including kratom.

“Given that massive volume, it’s estimated that only a small percentage of the illicit drugs smuggled through the (international mail are being intercepted,” Gottlieb said.

In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency temporarily reclassified kratom as a Schedule 1 drug, which is the same class heroin and marijuana are under. Schedule 1 drugs are those that have a high potential for abuse. But the DEA action spurred public protest, instigating a reversal of the decision.

Kratom is already a controlled substance in 16 countries, including two where it is grown locally. It is also banned in some US states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

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