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4 things to know about kratom

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June 4, 2021—Taking a plant-based supplement like kratom may seem like a harmless idea. After all, if it's natural, what can be the risk? But "natural" doesn't always mean "safe." And kratom is a good example of why.

Kratom is a kind of tree found in Southeast Asia. Its leaves have traditionally been chewed or brewed as a tea to treat fatigue and improve productivity.

Recently, kratom has been marketed in Western countries as a dietary supplement or treatment for pain or opioid withdrawal. But kratom is a potentially addictive stimulant. And it can pose serious risks to people's health.

Here are four reasons not to use any form of kratom:

1. It is potentially addictive. There are two active ingredients in kratom that affect the opioid receptors in the brain, much like morphine. This can lead to a higher risk of addiction and dependence, especially for people who take kratom often.

2. Kratom can have serious side effects. Although it is a plant-based product, kratom has a wide range of side effects. These can include nausea, sweating, dry mouth, and even seizures and hallucinations. There have also been deaths associated with kratom. These have mainly been the result of using kratom in combination with other medications or opioids.

In addition, long-term kratom users can experience withdrawal if they try to quit. That can lead to symptoms like insomnia, aggression and jerky movements.

3. It has not been clinically tested or approved. Kratom is not approved for any medical use, including treating pain or opioid addiction. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has even seized supplements containing kratom over concerns about its safety.

4. Kratom can be contaminated. In 2018, there was a Salmonella outbreak associated with some kratom products sold in the U.S. Kratom teas, capsules or extracts can also include other substances with potentially fatal side effects.

Kratom simply isn't worth the risk. If you are coping with chronic pain or recovering from a substance use disorder, ask your doctor about safer treatments to try.

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