A World Health Organization (WHO) expert committee has recommended that kratom not be subject to a “critical review”, potentially allaying fears that the plant will be internationally controlled as a medication.
Following a screening of kratom and its constituents at a meeting in October in Geneva, the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) concluded that there was no sufficient evidence to recommend a critical review of kratom. With the exception of one member, the expert committee also reached the same conclusion regarding two constituents of kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.
EDDD, an independent group of experts in drugs and medicine, has recommended that kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine be kept under surveillance by the WHO Secretariat.
Kratom advocates feared worst-case scenario ahead of WHO meeting: United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) would end up ‘programming’ (as a drug) kratom internationally, demanding dozens of countries , including the United States, which is party to the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances to ban this substance.
But such fears can be allayed, at least for now, since kratom is not recommended for critical review.
WHO has launched a pre-review of kratom and its constituents based, in part, on a “country-level report indicating the potential for abuse, dependence and public health harm of mitragynine and 7-Hydroxymitragynine, ”according to a Nov. 18 report. document summarizing the recommendations of the EDCD. The document also cites a report from an international group detailing deaths linked to kratom use.
“Kratom can produce severe toxicity in people who use high doses, but the number of cases is likely small compared to the total number of people who use kratom,” the WHO said in the document. “Although mitragynine has been analytically confirmed in a number of deaths, almost all involve the use of other substances, so the degree to which kratom use contributed to the deaths is not clear.”
Tens of thousands of consumers have sent comments to the FDA and WHO, with many opposing the kratom ban and hailing its benefits. In a December 7 email to its members, the American Kratom Association (AKA) described the recent WHO announcement as “a huge validation of the comments you submitted and the science we presented to WHO ECDD “.
“AKA and kratom consumers around the world are extremely grateful for EDCD’s extensive review and overwhelming consensus that [there] was insufficient evidence to recommend that kratom be subjected to a full critical review, ”Mac Haddow, senior public policy researcher at AKA, said in a press release.
Haddow added: “There is no doubt that kratom should not be programmed and that it should be responsibly regulated to protect against dangerously adulterated kratom products.”
AKA, however, has warned that it remains to be seen how the WHO recommendation will impact future kratom reviews.
“Exactly what this will mean for kratom internationally and potential future reviews is unclear, but we can be sure the enemies of kratom will try to do it again,” the kratom group observed in its e- mail, who acknowledged that an ECDD member was in favor of a critical review of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.
Kratom is commonly used to treat chronic pain and opioid withdrawal symptoms, and consuming the herb can lead to side effects such as constipation, nervousness, respiratory depression, vomiting, and weight loss, according to the FDA.
“Kratom has been reported to have both narcotic and stimulant effects, and withdrawal symptoms may include hostility, aggression, excessive tearing, muscle and bone pain, and jerky limb movements,” the FDA noted in a 2021 report. Federal Register Notice announcing the WHO October meeting to review kratom and six other substances, including phenibut.
The FDA has maintained for years a import alert on food supplements and bulk food ingredients that contain kratom. And recently, a kratom supplement maker embroiled in a lawsuit with the US Department of Justice agreed to destroy the items seized by the government.
The FDA declined to comment on recent ECDD recommendations regarding kratom and its constituents.