Herbal supplement Kratom targeted by lawsuits after a string of deaths

Kratom, a popular herbal supplement mostly sold in the United States, is facing numerous wrongful death lawsuits following related fatalities.

Product overview: Kratom is made from the dried leaves of a tree in the coffee family and has been used as a folk medicine in Southeast Asia for centuries.
* It’s sold in many businesses across the U.S., including bars like Kavasutra in Florida, which serves kratom tea.
* In small doses, it acts as a stimulant relieving aches, pains, depression, anxiety, and even symptoms of opioid withdrawal but in higher doses, it can lead to addiction, seizures, and death.

Legal issues: Multiple wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against kratom, the first of which in the U.S. resulted in a $2.5 million verdict in Washington state last week.
* In a recent incident, a concentrated kratom extract called “Space Dust” was implicated in the death of a nurse and mother of four, and the Idaho-based vendor was ordered to pay over $4.6 million in damages.
* An increasing call for increased government regulation of kratom has risen, specifically for proper labeling and usage guidance.

Regulatory Status: Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against the use of kratom, citing its potential for addiction, it currently classifies and regulates it as food, not a drug.
* This lack of regulation leaves consumers guessing on how to safely use the various forms of kratom available in the market.
* The American Kratom Association is advocating for kratom to be regulated as a legal, over-the-counter supplement, not as a drug.

Dire need for research: According to Dr. Christopher McCurdy, a medicinal chemist who’s been studying kratom for nearly two decades, there is significant need for more extensive research on kratom’s properties and effects.
* He emphasizes the difference between kratom’s original form as used in Southeast Asia and the concentrated kratom extracts sold in the U.S., and suggests that the lack of usage guidance on many kratom products is due to uncertainty about appropriate dosages.

View original article on NPR

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