At gas stations, in smoke shops and on the internet, consumers can easily buy kratom, an herbal substance that some users claim is an antidote to opioid dependence and a lifeline for alleviating mental and physical pain. In 2021 alone, roughly 1.7 million Americans used kratom, although the Food and Drug Administration has not approved it for any medical use.
There is limited information on kratom; a 2022 review of its health effects characterized the research in the United States as “still in its infancy.” But federal health authorities have persistently highlighted the potential harms. The FDA urges consumers not to use it “because of the risk of serious adverse events,” and the Drug Enforcement Administration has labeled kratom a “drug and chemical of concern.” Recently, numerous lawsuits have asserted that kratom consumption may have contributed to the deaths of several people.
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