Can a Controversial Tree Help End the Opioid Crisis?
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) Integrative Medicine Research Lecture SeriesKratom (botanical nameMitragyna speciosa Korth) is a tree in the coffee family (Rubiaceae) indigenous to Southeast Asia. Its leaves are the source of a Thai traditional drug, kratom, that possesses unique pharmacologic actions — e.g., stimulant actions like those of the coca plant plus depressant ones like those of opium. Traditionally, in its countries of origin, kratom extract has been used as an opium substitute; in Thailand, it has been used as a treatment for addiction.Recently, human case reports have increased in the literature from its use in the U.S., and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency announced an intention to place kratom into Schedule I. However, little was known scientifically about this tree and drug. Studies in animal models and published case reports on patients from the past few years have focused on the potential of kratom and its major alkaloid (mitragynine) in the context of opioid withdrawal.Dr. McCurdy will discuss the traditional medicinal use of kratom, the chemistry of the current pharmacologic studies, and the results of his team ’ s behavioral studies in rodent models. Kratom ’ s differing uses, availability, and preparation around the world will also be explored. More knowledge about the science may help patients ’ and health care providers ’ thinking about this botanical.Biosketch:Christopher McCurdy, Ph.D., is a medicinal chemi...
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