PHOENIX - The Federal Drug Administration has issued a warning against the herbal, plant-based supplement Kratom and declares the drug is an opioid.
The agency based the classification off of several scientific studies that suggested the drug interacted in the brain similarly to opioids and could lead to addiction or even death. Many patients are drawn to the drug to help ease pain, depression or kick and opioid addiction.
"The last thing our country needs is another opioid," said Dr. Frank Lovecchio of Banner Health. "If anything, we need more ways to relieve pain without using opioids and without addictive substances."
He said the drug became more prevalent in the United States about a decade ago and is popular in a powder or pill form.
The FDA cites their studies do not support the theory that the pills can be used to help ease opioid addiction.
Forty-four deaths have been linked to the drug, according to the agency, and the majority of the cases involve the patient ingesting Kratom with another substance, like alcohol.
"Is it dangerous? I have to say it's very dangerous," Dr. Lovecchio said. "And the reason why is it's very dangerous is because I think you have to be very cautious any time you put a medicine in your mouth."