Recently, we are being bombarded with news regarding CDC reporting allegedly kratom related deaths. This is increasing the kratom controversy so, people wonder if kratom is, in fact, deadly. A few months ago, the CDC released a study which linked kratom to with drug overdose deaths. But how accurate was this study?
Last April, the American Kratom Association conducted a webinar where scientists and experts, including Dr. Jack Henningfield, to address this issue. In the webinar, the experts analyzed the CDC report and responded to questions from the attendees. So, if you want to know what the CDC report really says about kratom, keep reading below and find an overview of the AKA webinar.
What Is Kratom Used for In The US?
Although kratom has been used in South East Asia for centuries, its use in Western countries has only become popular recently. For this reason, there is not much information about the plant to date.
However, after examining the literature of kratom in their areas of origin, it is safe to say that there are no documented reports of kratom overdose deaths in South East Asia, despite its wide availability.
According to the intervention of Dr. Henningfield, in the US, kratom consumers typically use the plant for the following purposes:
- As a pain reliever.
- To get off opioids. This way, they can become active and productive members of society.
- To increase energy and as a morning pick me up.
What the CDC Report Did Not Conclude?
During the webinar, Dr. Henningfield gave an overview of what the CDC report, in his opinion, did not conclude. Below is what he said about this matter:
- The report didn’t conclude that kratom is an opioid
- It didn’t conclude that kratom was the cause of death for the drug overdose victims. However, some involvement of kratom couldn’t be ruled out.
- The CDC report didn’t conclude that kratom can cause an overdose death.
What Did the CDC Report Conclude?
Following the above opinions, Dr. Henningfield expressed his opinion on what the CDC report could, in fact, conclude:
- The victims of the majority of overdose deaths in the CDC report, not only had kratom in their system, but also other substances, including Fentanyl or its analogs and heroin. So, these substances were, in fact, the cause of most deaths.
- Although there were 7 deaths which only showed kratom in their system, “the presence of additional substances cannot be ruled out”, according to the wording of the CDC report. Why was this pointed out in the report? The reason is simple. Some medical examiners and coroners don’t have the necessary resources to make the proper analysis to detect every substance. Moreover, they refer to a New England Journal of Medicine study, which states that they found the only kratom in 4 of the 15 opioid attributed deaths. And, after examining them more thoroughly, they found multiple drugs in every sample that they had.
- Another report conclusion was that the type and number of substances detected in the kratom involved deaths can inform overdose prevention strategies.
- Finally, another conclusion was that we need better post-mortem toxicology testing protocols to be able to clarify the extent to which kratom (or any other substances) contribute to overdose if any.
In the final part of the webinar, the experts addressed questions from the attendees. One of the most interesting was: The CDC report concluded that kratom was not an opioid, but the FDA says it is an opioid. How can these two arguments reconcile?
Dr. Henningfield responded that kratom is not an opioid by law or by chemistry. Opioids and narcotic-like opioids cause respiratory depression, but there is no evidence that shows that kratom has this effect. On the other hand, he added that narcotic-like opioids provide a powerful rewarding effect in the brain. But there are no studies that show that kratom has the same effect. And most people use it for the same reason they use coffee: to do and feel better and to achieve energy and focus.
Another very interesting question regarding this subject was why kratom is not an opioid and what the differences between a classic opioid and a partial agonist opioid.
Dr. Grundmann addressed this question and responded that classic opioids, such as heroin, Fentanyl, etc. are in fact, full agonists at the opioid receptors. As such, they have all the typical effects of opioids in these receptors, including pain relief. Contrary to this, a partial agonist, such as mitragynine (kratom’s main alkaloid) will not produce a full response in those receptors. And, as such, they won’t produce the same negative side effects.
Finally, for more information, we strongly encourage you to watch the webinar available at the American Kratom Association site.