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Kratom calls to poison centers on the rise

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March 29, 2019— More calls to poison control centers are being made because of kratom, says a new study. This herbal supplement is used to treat chronic pain, depression and anxiety.

The study in Clinical Toxicology said kratom was responsible for more than 1,800 calls to U.S. poison control centers over a seven-year period. The calls increased from 13 in 2011 to 682 in 2017. Two-thirds of the calls occurred in 2016 and 2017 alone. And nearly one-third of these calls resulted in admission to a healthcare facility.

The study showed that kratom caused a range of serious symptoms. These included rapid heartbeat, agitation, high blood pressure, seizures and even comas. Taking kratom with other substances was even more dangerous. In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a series of warnings about kratom after it was linked to at least 44 deaths.

What exactly is kratom?

Kratom is a tree from Southeast Asia. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says its leaves contain compounds with mind-altering—or psychotropic—effects. In recent years, some people have used it to help with withdrawal symptoms from substances like opioids and alcohol. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration lists it as a "drug of concern."

People take kratom as a pill, capsule or extract. Some also chew kratom leaves or brew it in tea. To date, FDA hasn't approved kratom for medical use. There is a risk of dependence. Some users experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it.

Not worth the risk

Because it's classified as an herbal supplement, kratom isn't regulated by FDA. That means you can't be sure of the quality, purity or concentration of what's sold in these products. Pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid it, because it may cause severe withdrawal syndrome in newborns.

Currently, no medical treatment exists for kratom addiction. The best bet before taking any herbal supplement is to check with your doctor first.

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