Salmonella Outbreak Possibly Connected to Opioid Substitute

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports kratom is linked to salmonella illnesses in 20 states

The Centers for Disease Control are warning about a salmonella outbreak associated with a plant called kratom.

On February 6, the FDA classified kratom, a botanical substance widely used as a painkiller, despite agency approval, as an opioid. Some consumers have hailed the drug as a "natural" pain remedy, but some medical experts say it can be risky, even deadly. The CDC reports that it's confirmed 28 people in 20 states have contracted the strain of Salmonella, which gives people diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.

No manufacturer, brand or supplier of kratom-containing products has been named in relation to this outbreak as of yet, but the FDA and CDC are working to identify the source.

In the meantime, the Drug Enforcement Administration is looking at restriction on the sales of kratom, which is available online.

Here's what health officials know so far, and what you need to keep in mind.

As a result, the agency urged Americans not to use any form of the plant, which is sold in smoke shops and can be smoked, made as tea or taken as a pill.

In addition to being marketed as a concentration booster and workout enhancer, kratom has been advertised as a replacement for opioid painkillers.

Those reports loosely connected kratom to 44 deaths, but in all but one case, the people who died were found to have been taking multiple drugs, including other opioids in many cases.

Kratom has been in the news lately since its advocates view it as a way to treat pain without using highly addictive opioid drugs. The CDC has linked the incident to the controversial kratom herbal supplements, and has recommended consumers to avoid the products. Unfortunately, that reality is being reflected in shipments of kratom products contaminated with salmonella.

"Cases of mixing kratom, other opioids, and other types of medication are extremely troubling because the activity of kratom at opioid receptors indicates there may be similar risks of combining kratom with certain drugs, just as there are with FDA-approved opioids", Gottlieb said. There are now no FDA-approved therapeutic uses of kratom and importantly, the FDA has evidence to show that there are significant safety issues associated with its use.

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