Kratom herbal supplement used to treat addiction and pain found unsafe by researchers

Herbal supplement used to treat addiction and pain found unsafe by researchers
William Eggleston, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Credit: Binghamton University, State University of New York.

The herb kratom is increasingly being used to manage pain and treat opioid addiction, but it's not safe to use as an herbal supplement, according to new research led by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

William Eggleston, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Binghamton University, had been seeing more and more patients presenting with toxicity or withdrawal from kratom use. Kratom is an derived from a plant that grows throughout southeast Asia. It is well-reported that the active chemicals in the plant act on in the body. Patients report using the supplement to treat/prevent withdrawal, treat use disorder, or treat pain.

Eggleston was curious to see what types of toxicities were being reported to Poison Centers nationally in order to better assess whether or not kratom is safe enough to be used as an herbal supplement. His team conducted a retrospective review of kratom exposures reported to the National Poison Data System to determine the toxicities associated with kratom use. They also reviewed records from a County Medical Examiner's Office in New York State to identify kratom?associated fatalities.

A total of 2312 kratom exposures were reported, with 935 cases involving kratom as the only substance. Kratom most commonly caused agitation (18.6%), tachycardia (16.9%), drowsiness (13.6%), vomiting (11.2%), and confusion (8.1%). Serious effects of seizure (6.1%), withdrawal (6.1%), hallucinations (4.8%), (2.8%), coma (2.3%), and cardiac or respiratory arrest (0.6%) were also reported. Kratom was listed as a cause or contributing factor in the death of four decedents identified by the County Medical Examiner's Office.

The findings suggest kratom is not reasonably safe and poses a public health threat due to its availability as an herbal supplement.

"Although it is not as strong as some other prescription opioids, kratom does still act as an opioid in the body," said Eggleston. "In larger doses, it can cause slowed breathing and sedation, meaning that patients can develop the same toxicity they would if using another opioid product. It is also reported to cause seizures and liver toxicity. Kratom may have a role in treating pain and , but more research is needed on its safety and efficacy. Our results suggest it should not be available as an herbal ."

Eggleston and his team are working with colleagues at SUNY Upstate Medical University to better assess how many patients are actually using kratom and if the risk for toxicity changes depending on the dose of taken.

The paper, "Kratom Use and Toxicities in the United States," was published in Pharmacotherapy.

Explore further

Herbal supplement kratom is tied to more US deaths

More information: William Eggleston et al, Kratom Use and Toxicities in the United States, Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy (2019). DOI: 10.1002/phar.2280
Citation: Kratom herbal supplement used to treat addiction and pain found unsafe by researchers (2019, July 9) retrieved 20 July 2019 from
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Jul 09, 2019

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Jul 09, 2019
Hello everyone! I'll try to make it short! I had a massive stroke three years ago and I was suffering from terrible depression (PTSD). I found Kratom and it saved my life! I have been taking Kratom for two years daily and I feel great!

Jul 09, 2019
I also just had blood work done and I have great numbers! These people who want to make Kratom illegal are evil and corrupt! They want you to stay sick so they can get rich off of your illness. Shameful! Take Kratom to beat depression and addiction! Peace!

Jul 09, 2019
I take Kratom every day! There is no side effects? They don't tell you the people who die from Kratom that they were also doing some crazy narcotic, like heroin or drinking a fith of whiskey a day. They lie to make you take their prescribed pills of death!

Jul 09, 2019
This article boils down to: "We're ignorant, so here's some anecdotal evidence it may be dangerous so we're gonna err on the side of caution and say it's dangerous."

Compare cases of Kratom toxicity to the number of people who take Kratom then compare those numbers to those of say prescription painkillers or alcohol.

Kratom does have its risks but so does getting out of bed in the morning.

You can easily mitigate Kratom withdrawals with Akkuama or Black Seed Oil and they typically only last for a week whereas other opioids take months, even years to recover from.

Jul 09, 2019
I have taken Kratom multiple times per day for the past 4 years. I have had blood tests and labs done within that time period and they turned out normal (my numbers would actually be considered "good").

I take Kratom therapeutically, not for any "high". All my life I have suffered from anxiety, depression, and chronic pain (played American football for 10 years). Kratom eases all my bad sysmptoms, it reduces my anxiety and dread, and also help a little bit with pain. It literally changed, and possibly saved, my life.

Kratom has been completely safe for me. I have never experienced any times where I was worried about my health or safety. While on it, my motor control and cognition is actually improved.

Jul 09, 2019
Kratom is a lifesaver! I wouldn't be able to even sleep let alone get out of bed in the morning. It allows me to lead a normal life with my husband and 3 children. All of these people throwing bad press towards Kratom are just horrible. All I think when I read things like this are " How many people are killed by the alternatives and is it even at all comparable? " The answer " Hell no". I get regular lab work done and everything comes back normal ( kidneys , liver ect ). I've been taking Kratom everyday for 8 years and if it's taken away bc of these ridiculously pathetic statistics that should honestly be looked at as insignificant in the big picture..... I don't know what I will do.It should be my right to weigh the risk and decide what I want to take to help my quality of life. I've also NEVER experienced or know anyone who's experienced any kind of side effects from taking it .

Jul 09, 2019
I've been taking Kratom for 9 months and the only side affect I ever had was a hot flash one time. The benefits have been marvelous! Kratom is the only thing I've been able to take to not only stop my back pain, but to do it within 5 minutes. The FDA really is trying to condemn something that is helping people! Pharmaceutical companies and the American way I suppose!

Jul 09, 2019
Kratom has replaced pharmaceutical medication for me. I have a bad back and was introduced to this supplement about 2 years ago, and it has helped me tremendously. Big pharma will fight this tooth and nail, just as they have fought green for all these years, or anything natural. Shame on this article for making it sound as if this supplement is not safe, yet also saying more research needs to be done. Well, do the research, do not jump on bandwagons, no matter how deep the pockets!

Jul 09, 2019
This is a dubious study. I bet most subjects were on multiple drugs. A real study should be done on old men in Thailand, who have used it for decades and remain healthy. I smell big Pharma behind this agitprop!

Jul 09, 2019
According to this logic, we better take alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate off the market as well. And since we are pretending to be concerned about people's health, let's take cigarettes and corn syrup off as well since those kill people left and right.

Pretty sure alcohol also puts you in a coma, but we don't care because, like anything in life, you need to take responsibility for yourself and your actions and as a society we are willing to balance the pros and cons of a substance and with Kratom the pros far outweigh the cons. -

Do these symptoms sound like Alcohol, Nicotine, and/or Caffeine - or a big bad plant that is keeping people off Opiates: Agitation, tachycardia, drowsiness, vomiting, and confusion. Serious effects of seizure, withdrawal (can cause seizure), hallucinations (can be cause by withdrawal), respiratory depression, coma.

Jul 09, 2019
Let's not forget that everytime we leave our homes, we see ads for alcohol, glorification and feeling obligated to drink to fit into society. Those statistics are no where near comparable. Opioids? I hear about overdoses constantly. It's an epidemic!
I will advocate for kratom any day. Been taking it for TWO YEARS. Take it responsibly. Find what dose works for you. And don't mix it with other things!
It's like we're promoting the use of other junk by creating a stigma and threatening the use of something safe.
There will always be a risk in ANYTHING we do.
Hallucinations and depression? I've lost weight, have more focus and my mood is elevated. The only type of withdrawal I have ever experienced is tiredness. Once again not even COMPARABLE.
All of the negative things I'm hearing make me sick.
Be responsible and learn about the strains and their effects.

Jul 09, 2019
So big pharma is saying that Kratom is bad!! Might be a little more believable if every other ad wasn't for Methadone!! What this article boils down to is "we are going to tell you that this plant is bad for you, just like we did with marijuana, don't use it because we will lose billions of dollars!!"

Jul 09, 2019
I've been using kratom every day for over five years to manage the symptoms of severe restless leg syndrome. Severe RLS is a horrible disease, that prevents you from sleeping, and even from just sitting down much of the time. I've had no noticeable side effects, and maybe if Big Pharma could come up with a good alternative medication for RLS I could understand this war against kratom. But the current medications have horrible side effects. If kratom is made schedule One I'll probably be on the street looking for illegal drugs.

Jul 09, 2019
Complete BS! I've lived on kratom multiple times per day for years due to chronic pain. It's either Kratom or opioids and I dont want them. It allows me to function, all blood work is great and I can deal with the pain. I dont want to suffer and I dont want to take opiods, as if that was even an option. People in real pain cannot get any relief due to addicted people and fentanyl, its pathetic. We treat our animals better. Tell big pharma and the government to stay the hell out of this!

Jul 09, 2019
I've been a daily Kratom user for 5 years, and the only side effect that I've ever experienced is vomiting when I've taken a high dose.

My 91 year old mother began taking Kratom for her chronic back pain a month ago, and tells me that it's the only thing that has helped alleviate her pain.

The government and big pharma should keep their hands off kratom.

Jul 09, 2019
It's shameful for the FDA or others to try and ban a substance that has saved the lives of thousands including myself. As an Iraq War Vet dealing with addiction, back pain, and PTSD, Kratom is the reason I am still alive and I am able to work every day. I used Kratom for over 2 years with no problems.

Jul 09, 2019
I am a pharmacist and have taken Kratom over this past year. Only thing that seems to help my PTSD and depression and believe me, I have tried them all!! MaNY of us on Kratom come from a group of MORE MORE MORE. I have very little side effects except weight loss which helped bring down my cholesterol and blood sugar. That is a great thing. Benadryl is otc and has ma y more hospitalizations.

Jul 09, 2019
I have also used kratom for years now, it's been a great help for my arthritis pain and insomnia. Only a few weeks after knee and shoulder replacements I was forced to go without opioids due to changes in the law but kratom helped me keep my sanity - and even sleep. I too have had no issues with blood work or organ function.
This does look like another attempt to disinform and persuade the average American to oppose kratom - make it illegal. The concerns about safety are typical and have to be addressed, but they need to be more explicit about what they know and what they suspect. And they need to put it in perspective with other things people are familiar with. Caffeine kills, there were 15,000 deaths from NSAID toxicity versus 91 deaths "kratom related", only 4 of which didn't involve other drugs, but the details are unknown. I suspect a passenger in a fatal auto accident that has kratom in their blood would go down as a kratom-related death.

Who is funding this guy's research?

Jul 09, 2019
Its funny , dont you think ...that on the same page this article has been posted on , there is an add for subcutaneous Suboxone. How many people have wondered into emergency rooms suffering " toxic symptoms" from that????

Bottom line is....Kratom saved my life from a runaway opioid addiction. I would hate to think that somehow the .gov and fda have their hands in the demonizing of this plant. Wonder if they just werent able to cash in on it before it hit the market? Hmmmm

Jul 09, 2019
I'm sorry, but did you really compile FDA press releases (that consists of false information without any refutable sources, poison control calls (in which any hypochondriac or anti-Kratom advocate could make a false correlation/accusation), and toxicity reports (which do not mention the other factors involved, such as suicide) and call it research?

For one, Kratom (specifically the alkaloids Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine) works as a partial agonist to the mu-opioid receptor and an antagonist to the delta and kappa opioid receptors. This results in pain relief (as agonism to opioid receptors typically do), without the chance of respiratory depression (Plus, it uses G Proteins instead of beta-arrestin which furthermore reduces that risk. Plus, the LD-50 is equivalent to over 2,000 grams!

If you want real science, thoroughly read this article and check out the footnotes.


Jul 09, 2019
My wife went from needing to drug herself into oblivion because of pain to not having had the need for prescription drugs for 8 years...not one single one!!!
Too many People have literally had thei saved by Kratom including my wife.
This type of article can be used by government to keep pushing the heavy narcotics and that makes you complicit in whatever happens because if it.
Your page says trust the science.
I'd rather trust the people she swear by it.

Jul 09, 2019
Not science. Reading reports from ERs from doctors who have probably never heard of kratom and making assumptions based on a five minute diagnosis is of little scientific value when try to justify a ban. Who paid for this study? Who paid for this article? FDA is desperate to make kratom illegal and will fabricate, and mislead to accomplish this. Kratom is safe when used responsibly. The evidence to date shows that. full stop.

Jul 09, 2019
I'm not trying to be rude, but is this paper what you consider research? This is just reporting what others have said, specifically medical examiners, the CDC and the FDA. Is it asking too much to actually do research? Like in a controlled group? The side effects you report are not from a controlled group. There is no way to determine if those people were using any other substance. Similarly there is not way to determine if the people who went to the ER or called in were taking Kratom or some substance from a head shop that is being used to make money off people by making them feel "high".

Jul 09, 2019
We know that stuff coming from China marked as Kratom is full of all types of stuff and synthetic substances. Still, those side effects are exceptionally low and could be the listed side effects of energy drinks, or even over the counter cough syrup. As a scientist you should want the truth no matter where it leads you vs scare tactics trying to ban a plant that nobody can argue, helps thousands of people. Is this science? Is this doing justice to Americans who use this plant for good?

Jul 09, 2019
I and many of my soldier friends have been using it for many years. It has been used in Asia for millennia. The symptoms and incidences reported above were in line with the ingestion of a double latte which is apropos as the tree is a member of the coffee family. Using incredibly flawed and unverifiable data such as that which is self-reported to a poison control center for scientific research is both inaccurate irresponsible and nonrepeatable. I have not been able to read the study as of yet, however, the statement that they retroactively researched data that was unverified reeks of poor science. While this alkaloid does bind to opioid receptors, it is indeed an alkaloid and would more properly be termed an opioid agonist rather than an opioid itself but this is much less sinister and not newsworthy. As to the absolute lies in regards to physical addiction, while everyone is different, I've seen many people move on and off kratom with little to no withdrawal symptoms.

Jul 09, 2019
I'm an adult. Stop pretending to have authority over my consciousness. I'm perfectly capable of consuming a plant regardless of weather or not it's harmful to me. Even if I is harmful, who cares. Give me Kratom, give me weed, give me mushrooms, or give me death pretty much. I hate being alive, and now you're going to tell me I'm not allowed to have my drugs cause I don't know any better? Either let me have my drugs and be a free man, or just shoot me. I don't want to be an animal in a cage. If I don't have agency over my own consciousness, what do I have agency over?

Jul 10, 2019
Kratom has made it possible for me to relax and actually enjoy myself for the first time in my life. I have an acute anxiety disorder, and my doctors treated me with benzos from the time I was a kid until my mid-30s when the medical world decided that med was highly addictive and that people like me were now considered addicts, and to take us off those terrible addictive drugs NOW. That was that for those. I then was given antidepressives, of which worked for a short time each, and then I was back to square one with my anxiety. I finally gave up on those and remained off them until some 12 years later, until I discovered Kratom. Kratom does not make me high. It just allows me to relax in the evening and enjoy such things as reading a book or watching a TV show without being riddled with anxiety. I stop taking it intermittently for days and even weeks, as it will stop working entirely if you use it every day, at least for me. That said, I've never suffered from withdrawals.

Jul 10, 2019
Oh Get out of here with the misinformation. It hasn't been identified as a cause of death in any cases. It also has been proven, empiraclly, to not cause respiratory depression or slow breathing

Jul 10, 2019
This article is full of nonsense. I have been using kratom daily for over 3 years for chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and to curb alcohol addiction cravings. I have an addiction to it that has the same level of withdrawals as I have experienced with coffee. Much, much less than when I smoked cigarettes. I recently switched my primary care doctor & had a complete physical and bloodwork, and everything was perfect. My life has improved exponentially since I began drinking kratom tea. This article is simply inaccurate and part of the FDA's smear campaign. I'm a 54 yr old male, and in perfect health, the best I've ever been, in fact.

Jul 10, 2019
I used to take adderal for my ADHD, Xanax for my anxiety, hope your words for my pain, and antidepressants for my depression. None of these pharmaceuticals helped any of my mental illnesses and they also all have very severe and negative side effects that I experienced with each one. I no longer take any pharmaceuticals and I use kratom and only kratom to manage all my mental problems, which it successfully does without any bad side effects. I have been searching my entire life and have tried almost everything doctors have to offer and nothing has worked except for kratom. If it weren't for kratom I would not be alive today.

Jul 10, 2019
I am a Medical Science Liaison for a pharmaceutical company some of whom do actually improve peoples quality of life and, yes, all are in it to make money. William's method of research is garbage. Here is the Eggleston's email. Please contact him respectfully to question these "results".

Jul 10, 2019
I haven't done any blood work (I'm terrible around needles, actually. I come close to passing right out) but I've been taking kratom for around 3+ years, and I'm active/fit. No issues whatsoever. I don't know what kind of bogus science this is, but big pharma should stop. They're going to mess up something that is helping millions of people get their lives on track.

Jul 10, 2019
This is such a load of bs! Anything to scare people into not taking it or giving up the one thing that is left to help people with their pain because our government is so ignorant and money hungry they dont care how they affect everyone else. It's all for the almighty dollar. So sick and tired of living like this when they have never had to live a day in our shoes.

Jul 10, 2019
I've been taking kratom for over 9 years, and it has helped me with a variety of issues, including arthritis pain, depression and anxiety. It initially helped me to detox from Tramadol. As a mature adult, I do my own research and educate myself as much as possible and don't need the government or anybody else to tell me what I can or cannot put into my own body. Of course, there are drawbacks to anything we ingest if used inappropriately. Kratom can be addicting, and users need to be aware. It's very sad that a few bad apples who adulterate products and abuse products affect the outcome for the majority. Education is key. The American Kratom Association has much information about the plant, its benefits and effects, as well as research papers.

Jul 10, 2019
Fake news strikes again. 4 years using kratom. I have had blood tests every year and they always come back normal. Kratom is helping millions get off opioids and pharma poisons. Pharma will be losing millions/billions of dollars especially now that cannabis is becoming legal. The FDA is a criminal organization that is paid by pharma companies which is a conflict of interest. The FDA should be disbanded and the people running it should be put in prison for crimes against humanity.

Jul 10, 2019
Kratom saved my life. My chronic, degenerative back issue had gotten so bad, there were days I couldn't even get out of bed. Kratom allows me the opportunity to get up every day and do yoga and light strength training. As an additional bonus, I no longer desire alcohol. Also, I have blood tests done every 6 months. My numbers are great and I have no ill effects.

Jul 10, 2019
Everyone who uses kratom knows there is no real danger. Even if that were true, there are far more dangerous substances available OTC in every corner store. We all recognize that any risk is far outweighed by the fact that many of us got our lives back. Stop this nonsense, the people demand freedom to self medicate responsibly and we dont need you to tell us that you think its unsafe.

Jul 12, 2019
I'm not sure where you are getting that kratom is not safe, based on what you've written here. It's obviously a lot safer than Tylenol, alcohol or cigarettes. I would really like to know the mechanism of death for kratom. It has been studied and shown to NOT recruit beta-aresstin protein in the brain. This protein is what is responsible for the deaths seen in traditional opioids. See study info attached with some of the text pasted here: "In addition, kratom does not usually produce an intense high or euphoria.1,2,13-15 Importantly, even at very high doses, kratom does not depress respiration." Study is from the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association: Update and legal status of Kratom. Medical examiners are listing kratom as a contributing factor to death just because it is PRESENT in the tox. Are we all to rely solely on BigPharma? Don't you find it odd that kratom has been taken in SE Asia for centuries WITHOUT A SINGLE DEATH ever occurring?

Jul 12, 2019
Mainstream media was quick to jump on this article and decry Kratom without doing any research at all. This is why nobody trusts journalists these days, they're lazy and useless.

88,000 people die of alcohol related deaths every year and these organizations determined to criminalize Kratom are having trouble linking it to ANY deaths AT ALL.

If Kratom was even half as dangerous as they'd like you to believe, they'd have concrete proof of Kratom deaths and wouldn't be citing such weak sources of information like poison control calls.

Jul 15, 2019
This is just a another attack by the Government and those from the FDA and big Pharma to squelch anything and everything that doesnt make them money. This bunch of money hungry politician's and their friends from big pharma cant stand to miss put on a dime. So make it illegal by spreading lies and fake propoganda , then get everyone hooked on pharmaceuticals and opioids again so the money keeps pouring in. They kill two birds with one stone. They support addiction and then turn around and claim there is an epidemic and something needs to be done while making money hand over fist , either from Big Pharma or Insurance company kickbacks for drug dependency and crappy addiction treatment centers. F you FDA and Big Pharma....F You

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