Kratom, the popular but unregulated herbal supplement derived from a Southeast Asian tree, has been linked to 91 overdose deaths in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week.
In the study, the CDC looked at data on 27,338 overdose deaths reported from 11 states from July 2016 to June 2017 and in 27 states from July 2017 to December 2017.
Kratom was detected in postmortem toxicology testing for 152 deaths. In 91 of those cases, medical examiners or coroners concluded that kratom was the cause of death, including seven where the herbal product was the only substance found on postmortem testing. Of those cases, 69 were men and 22 were women.
In about 80 percent of the deaths where kratom was found, the subject had a history of substance misuse, and approximately 90 percent had no evidence they were being medically treated for pain. Advocates say Kratom can relieve pain and help with opioid withdrawal and promote a sense of well-being.
The report released Thursday also stated that the number of kratom-positive deaths may be an underestimate.
The data was pulled from the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are among the states that reported their findings between July 2017 and December 2017.
Other drugs found in the post-mortem testing included fentanyl, heroin, prescription opioids and alcohol, according to the report.
The report also stated there were 1,807 calls to the national poison center concerning reported exposure to kratom from 2011 to 2017.
Kratom is sold online, in gas stations and smoke shops, and is typically brewed as a tea, chewed, smoked or ingested in capsules. It is banned in several countries, including Australia, Denmark, Germany, Malaysia, and Thailand, as well as several U.S. states and municipalities.
In November, the Food and Drug Administration found that samples of the unregulated product are contaminated with heavy metals including lead and nickel.
The agency has unsuccessfully sought to regulate the product and had issued a public health advisory in November 2017. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has identified kratom as a drug of concern, the CDC reported.