Ask Dr. Nandi: Is Kratom a dangerous opioid or a harmless herbal supplement?

(WXYZ) - There has been much ado about Kratom lately. It’s a drug made from the crushed leaves of a plant that’s native to Malaysia and some other Asian countries.

According to the American Kratom Association, between three and five million people use it in the United States. Some like the extra boost of dopamine it gives them when they work out, ohers use Kratom to wean themselves off heavy opioids and still, others use it for mental issues like depression.

But is this drug safe? The FDA thinks not. 

Right now, it’s very loosely regulated by the FDA, so you can find it in a wide variety of places. Gas stations often sell Kratom pills from behind the counter, right next to the stuff promising to improve your sex life.

But Kratom is nothing like that. The FDA likens the chemicals inside this plant to opioids. They bind to those same receptors in the brain, causing pain relief and a release of dopamine.

While the drug isn’t nearly as strong as heroin or morphine, it does have some potential for abuse and it’s thought to be slightly addictive. 

The agency planned to ban it in 2016 but stopped short after a public outcry from users, and even some members of Congress.

Supporters say Kratom is critical in helping serious opioid users wean off the drug. It binds to different parts of the opioid receptors in the brain than most other opioids do. It’s milder and less addictive.

If the FDA bans Kratom and makes it a Schedule 1 drug, researchers won’t be able to study the plant. Considering that we know so little about it, lots of professionals think we should do more research before banning it altogether. 

Here are my prescriptions. 

  1. Understand that Kratom acts like an opioid. If you have any addictive tendencies, you should steer clear of this drug. 
  2. If you’re depressed, see your doctor before self-medicating with this drug or any other. 
  3. If you do decide to try it, don’t get Kratom from a gas station or head shop. Do your research and find a reputable vendor online
  4. Instead of substances like Kratom, try meditation for helping with your depression.

We will  continue to check back on Kratom’s legal status as it may become unlawful to possess in the near future. 

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