WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Lawmakers across the United States continue to debate the safety of kratom, an opioid-containing plant that has been listed as a “drug of concern” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Kratom is sold over the counter in specialty stores and online.

Substance use disorders are a major health concern in the U.S. and a growing number of people suffering from these diseases are self-medicating with kratom to help break a cycle of dependence. After tobacco, the most commonly abused substance in the U.S. is alcohol with nearly 15 million people diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder.

A Purdue University-led team published a paper in the Nov. 8 edition of the British Journal of Pharmacology examining the effects of kratom and the potential impacts on people with alcohol use disorder. The cost to individuals and society from alcohol use is estimated at more than $250 billion each year.

“One big challenge is that alcohol use disorder is not adequately treated with currently available medications; in fact less than 10% of patients receive treatment,” said Richard van Rijn, an associate professor in Purdue’s College of Pharmacy, who led the research team. “Few broadly effective drug therapies exist to treat alcohol use disorder, so finding new and better treatments is of critical importance to help people manage their disease.”

The Purdue scientists, in collaboration with researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York City and Washington University in St. Louis, studied the potential effects of kratom and its components on the body and in the ability to reduce alcohol consumption.

Chris Adam may be contacted at cladam@prf.org

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