CONCORD — Two people in New Hampshire died this year after taking a supplement that has prompted warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA issued its latest warnings about kratom via recent letters to two companies it alleges are marketing kratom with claims not substantiated by science.
“As we deal with the devastating crisis of opioid abuse and overdose plaguing our nation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration must remain vigilant and aggressive against trends that threaten to reverse our progress, or substances that have the potential to cause new epidemics of abuse,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said a statement Tuesday accompanying the action.
Newly released data from the N.H. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner continue to highlight the toll of opioids, which are causing the lion’s share of drug deaths in New Hampshire. Of the 190 fatal overdoses confirmed this year as of Sept. 10 — with the cause of another 90 deaths pending toxicology testing — 178 involved opioids. In nearly all those deaths, the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl was at play.
But the data also point to the impact of other substances, including kratom, methamphetamine and cocaine, often in combination with opioids.
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a plant from Southeast Asia, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which says the tree’s leaves have compounds that interact with brain receptors to trigger a range of effects.
“Although there have been no adequate and well-controlled scientific studies, advertisements claim that it can treat diarrhea, depression, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, stomach parasites, diverticulitis, anxiety, alcoholism, and opiate withdrawal,” the N.H. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said in Tuesday’s drug-data release.
But health problems have also been reported after kratom use, ranging from itching, sweating and dry mouth to seizures, hallucinations and symptoms of psychosis, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports. Commercially available kratom can also be laced with other substances, causing death, according to the institute.
Of the two deaths New Hampshire officials are attributing to kratom in 2018, they say one case involved the supplement alone, whereas the other was due to kratom and fentanyl.
Opioids were also involved in 16 of the 18 confirmed drug deaths involving cocaine this year and in eight of nine confirmed fatal overdoses involving methamphetamine.