After $3 million worth of kratom is seized, FDA continues to warn of its dangers
Last week, U.S. marshals seized an estimated $3 million worth of kratom that was being sold as a supplement by an Oklahoma-based company.
It’s not the first time that authorities have seized kratom, which is considered a “drug of concern” by the Food and Drug Administration. The incident, however, highlights the ongoing demand for the drug, even as the FDA continues to warn about its potential dangers.
Kratom is a plant that grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, and has a long history of use in Southeast Asia. In the U.S. it’s not approved for any purpose, but millions of Americans take it for myriad reasons, saying it boosts energy, treats pain and anxiety, provides a high, and even relieves symptoms of withdrawal from opioids.
The FDA, however, maintains that the drug is unsafe.
There are no FDA-approved uses for kratom, nor have there ever been, and the agency has received concerning reports about the safety of kratom,” Lauren-Jei McCarthy, an FDA press officer, told NBC News in an emailed statement.
In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration moved to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has no medical uses and has a high potential for abuse, but reversed course after public outcry. Kratom is still unregulated at the federal level, but five states have bans on the substance, according to the American Kratom Association, a group that advocates for kratom access in the U.S.
In a statement from April 2022, the FDA warned the public against using kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, which is the scientific name for the plant, saying that the substance “affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine” and that it appears to have “properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence.”