Kratom drug causes seizures in two men, US drug war hits the headlines

A case study of a drug war hitting the headlines in the US, a drug that has been banned in all but five US states, has resulted in seizures of kratom, the plant that has the same active ingredient as cannabis and the same psychoactive effect. 

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has said the drug, called kratom kratom and marketed as Mitragyna speciosa, is a drug with “unusual potential to cause seizures”.

It has been used in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia for decades to treat pain and muscle spasms, but its use in the United States has been limited to treating anxiety, and the DEA said the plant has been associated with a range of health problems. 

Kratom has been found to cause severe and prolonged seizures in people with serious conditions like epilepsy and spinal cord injury, but the DEA has been unable to confirm that those people have actually had seizures. 

“These seizures occur because the drug acts as a potent mitragynine agonist and inhibits the receptors that the brain needs to respond to a drug,” DEA spokesperson Brian Moran told the Associated Press news agency on Tuesday. 

 The DEA is also seeking a court order for the US government to freeze the assets of those who use the drug. 

Mitragynines are known to act as opioid receptors, meaning they bind to the same receptors as opioid analgesics like morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone.

The receptors are located in the brain’s opioid receptors that regulate activity in the central nervous system (CNS). 

The drug’s potency is measured in milligrams per kilogram of body weight. 

A kratom product containing mitragyna is pictured in a store in Bangkok, Thailand, on January 28, 2018.

The DEA’s position that the drug is a “potent mitragyme agonist” and that its use can lead to seizures was based on studies done by the drug’s manufacturer, Bio-Pharma, which has a factory in Indonesia and is working on developing the plant for use in Malaysia.

Bio-pharma has said it has “received FDA approval for this drug”, and it has not yet filed any paperwork to be licensed to manufacture kratom.

In addition to kratom’s use in pain relief, the DEA also said it could help patients with epilepsy, but that further studies were needed to confirm those claims.

“Mitragyna kratom is a controlled substance that is a high potential therapeutic candidate,” Moran told AP.

“We’re not sure whether it is an effective treatment, but it’s not known if it’s a safe one.” 

The Associated Press

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