NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to use a popular botanical product. It's called kratom, and the FDA says it can be deadly.
You can find it at smoke shops or even gas stations. But the FDA issued a public health advisory this week warning against kratom.
According to its website, the "FDA is concerned that kratom, which affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine, appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse and dependence."
The Director of the Louisiana Poison Control Center also has concerns.
"We've seen it purported to do a whole lot of things. We've heard some people use it for opioid withdrawal. Again there is no science or data that says that really works," said Poison Control Center Director Mark Ryan.
But kratom supporters say it's a natural substance that's safe and therapeutic - some have even claimed it helped them kick their opioid addiction.
"Sometimes there comes a point in my life where I have bad cravings, and basically I want to get high. And when I found kratom, it basically made those feelings go away," said user, Ethan Roberts. "Now for me, it doesn't give me any type of opiate high. It doesn't make me feel like I'm going to nod out and go to sleep. It makes me a more productive, functioning member of society."
In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said: "At a time when we have hit a critical point in the opioid epidemic, the increasing use of kratom as an alternative or adjunct to opioid use is extremely concerning."
Gottlieb adds that calls to poison control centers about kratom "have increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2015," and the FDA is aware of 36 reported deaths "associated with the use of kratom-containing products."
"We saw more calls from probably 2012 to 2015. It really kind of had a real presence out there and was being discussed a lot on the internet, we still get the occasional call about it but not as many as we were getting before and we've had no deaths related where Kratom was mentioned here in the state," said Ryan.