The abusive concern for kratom centers on two organic compounds called alkaloids contained within the leaves: mitragynine (MG) and 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-HMG). These two drugs show activity at μ-opioid receptors, which are related to pain relief. While these chemicals are not true opioids, they have demonstrated effective pain relief in human and animal studies.
“In the case of the statements made by the FDA concerning kratom, it is my scientific opinion that they do not have appropriate evidence to support the conclusions,” says Paula Brown, the director of natural products research at British Columbia Institute of Technology. She has conducted a review of the botany, chemistry and ethnomedicinal uses of plants in the genus Mitragyna, as well as undertaken industry-funded research. Brown says in an email she does not believe the drug should be criminalized … “The import ban and negative commentary [by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib] has forced this botanical into a gray or illicit market, where responsible procurement of material and manufacture is not seemingly a top priority.” A rodent study published this year found that MG had little abuse potential and actually reduced self-administration of heroin in rats. Another recent rat study found the same result: MG did not have abuse potential and reduced morphine intake, whereas 7-HMG did have high abuse potential. Despite these opposing effects, about 60 percent of the alkaloids in kratom leaves are MG — only 2 percent are 7-HMG. To understand what makes these two drugs unique, we need to talk about true opioids. When you take a drug like morphine, it interacts with μ-opioid receptors and brings in, or recruits, a protein called β-arrestin. This sends out chemical signals that can cause side effects like respiratory failure, which leads to deadly overdose. Most opioids, including fentanyl, recruit β-arrestin, but MG and 7-HMG do not, meaning there is evidence that kratom has much less associated risks than opioids, including fatal overdose. In other words, kratom may be slightly addictive, and it may have opioid-like effects, but based on the available science, it does not seem like kratom is as dangerous as heroin — or even close … “Fentanyls are killing tens of thousands of people. If kratom is an alternative, it sure is one that is not, by anybody’s estimations, as deadly as the alternatives on the street.”
Original Article (Discover Magazine Blogs):
The U.S. May Ban Kratom. But Are its Effects Deadly or Lifesaving?
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