FDA Commissioner Calls Kratom An Opioid


Trending News: Kratom ‘Is An Opioid,’ According To The FDA Commissioner

Long Story Short

A new statement from the FDA is bad news if you like to use kratom. 

Long Story

To some, kratom is a miracle plant with oodles of potential — it can be used to keep you focused, as a natural remedy to treat opioid addiction and as a pre-workout supplement. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is wary of the plant — and might advise the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to ban it outright.

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said: “There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use.” 

He went even further, calling kratom an opioid outright. “As the scientific data and adverse event reports have clearly revealed, compounds in kratom make it so it isn’t just a plant — it’s an opioid.”

Gottlieb’s main argument is the association between kratom and as many as 44 deaths. One death, allegedly associated with kratom, was that of police sergeant Matt Dana, which made headlines across the country.

But kratom’s advocates are vocal, and they are many.

In 2016, when the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) tried to have kratom classified as a Schedule 1 drug alongside LSD and heroin, public pressure, including from Congress, caused the DEA to reconsider the ban. The DEA said it’d wait for more research from the FDA, which we’re technically still waiting for. But it’s not looking good for kratom fans. The FDA commissioner said in the statement there’s been no “evidence that would meet the agency’s standard for approval.”

Still, many people who study kratom say the FDA is being too harsh. In a CNN report, Scott Hemby, Chair of the Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences at High Point University in North Carolina, said the 44 deaths isn’t a precise number because most were self-reported or occurred when mixed with other drugs. He also pointed to specific evidence about kratom as a way to treat opioids.

For its part, the American Kratom Association says kratom hasn’t been linked with any deaths whatsoever and it’s no worse for you than caffeine. 

Christopher McCurdy, a medicinal chemist at the University of Florida, also said the FDA is jumping to conclusions. He told CNN the FDA is only relying on computer models rather than scientific tests.

“We must be able to do the research,” he said. “If (kratom) goes Schedule I, this will make it nearly impossible to do so. … We must understand the science in intact animal models and humans before this can be definitively stated.”

This is obviously a pretty complex issue and a passionate one for many people. You just have to hope the FDA is doing its due diligence, because if kratom is as amazing as its proponents say it is, banning it would be a huge mistake. 

Own The Conversation

Ask The Big Question

Is kratom too risky to use at this point?

Drop This Fact

Kratom has been used as a remedy in Southeast Asia for centuries.



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