Kratom is a tree leaf (Mitragyna speciosa), native to Southeast Asia. Its medicines have long been used in the region to increase energy and relieve pain, as well as to treat a number of other conditions. Its use in the United States has increased in recent years for pain relief as well as to aid in the treatment of opioid withdrawal.

A plant that's been getting a buzz in recent years

Kratom made news in November (2017) when US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb (MD) warned against its use, particularly by people suffering from heroin and other opioids. Click here to read more . He noted that the officer is aware of reports of kratom supplements being wrapped with opioids such as hydrocodone and also warns that its use can lead to serious side effects, including seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms. Kratom's products are reportedly widely sold in smoke shops and elsewhere as a powder to be consumed as a tea to slow the effects of opioid withdrawal.

Studies are still underway

So far, most of the scientific evidence that kratom may have opioid-like activity comes from animal studies, although the effects in humans are similar to those of opioids. However, unlike opioids, which tend to be calming, at low to moderate doses, kratom appears to have a mildly stimulating effect. Kratom does not produce an opioid-like peak, but abruptly discontinuing its use may result in withdrawal symptoms, although these are milder than those associated with discontinuing opioid use. No controlled clinical studies have been published in this letter on the safety and efficacy of kratom in humans for pain control or opioid withdrawal. And as there is no doubt that some kratom products are counterfeit in some cases with toxic drugs.