FDA Tries To Blame Kratom In Newborn Withdrawal Case

By Victoria Kim 11/13/18

The agency claims it is aware of four other NAS cases involving infants exposed to kratom in utero.

kratom tea is being blamed for causing a newborn's withdrawal symptoms.

A new case report published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that kratom was the cause of a newborn’s withdrawal symptoms. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other naysayers of the herbal supplement say this is a prime example of kratom’s potential for abuse and addiction, researchers say there’s not enough information to draw any hard conclusions.

According to the case report, a former oxycodone user gave birth to a boy who showed signs of drug withdrawal—he was jittery, screaming, and required a morphine treatment to stay alive.

The mother reported that she had used oxycodone for almost a decade. But she completed a treatment program and was off the drugs during her pregnancy. Indeed, no opioids were detected in a drug test.

According to the woman’s husband, she had kratom tea every day to treat her withdrawal symptoms and help her sleep. Kratom, a plant that is native to Southeast Asia, has a fierce and loyal following of people who say it has helped them manage pain and treat opioid withdrawal.

But people should practice caution, says lead author of the case report Dr. Whitney Eldridge, a neonatologist at BayCare Health System in Florida. “I fear that women making genuine commitments to overcome their dependency may develop a false sense of safety by using a substance that is advertised as a non-opioid alternative,” she said.

As CNN notes, there is no explicit link between kratom and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) made in the case report.

There is not enough information to do so, says Dr. Andrew Kruegel, associate research scientist at Columbia University. “The main limitation is that we don’t know anything about the dosage that the mother was taking. Without that information, you can’t really extrapolate too much.” Nor was it verified—other than from the husband’s account—that the substance the mother was ingesting was indeed kratom.

According to the FDA, the boy’s case “further illustrates the concerns the FDA has identified about kratom, including the potential for abuse and addiction.”

The agency claims it is aware of four other NAS cases involving infants exposed to kratom in utero.

In April, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb went so far as to state that “compounds in kratom make it so it isn’t just a plant—it’s an opioid.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr