If you suffer from back pain and have been taking opioids for pain relief, you may be thinking of trying kratom. This product has been reported to help relieve pain and ease opioid withdrawal symptoms. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that using kratom can be a risky proposition.
Kratom, a plant that grows in various regions of Asia such as Malaysia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, has been marketed in the United States as a naturally occurring balm for pain, as well as anxiety and depression. Purchased in capsule, powder, liquid, or leaf form as an herbal supplement, kratom (botanical name: Mitragyna speciosa) is completely unregulated by the FDA. Its two main psychoactive compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, affect the same brain receptors as morphine does and present the potential for abuse and dependency.
Because kratom acts much like opioids do and can put users at risk for addiction, the FDA has issued a warning about its use, calling it “extremely concerning.” Kratom has been linked to seizures and liver damage and may be adulterated with opioid drugs such as hydrocodone. Users may be subject to the same kinds of withdrawal symptoms they experience when stopping other opioids. At least 36 known deaths have resulted from kratom, and poison-control centers received 10 times as many calls about the substance in 2015 as they did five years prior.
Until the FDA can conduct the appropriate evaluations of kratom’s risks and benefits and give it a seal of approval, your best bet is to talk with your doctor about other forms of pain and opioid-withdrawal relief.