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The World Health Organization's (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence released a report earlier this month outlining findings and recommendations surrounding the use of kratom and the active ingredients found in the plant. The report, compiled by a team of international experts, found that there is not enough evidence to consider kratom a risk to public health, and its use cannot be directly linked with any significant negative consequences.

This is excellent news for the millions of people who rely on kratom to manage their health conditions. While the report makes it clear that there is still more research that needs to be done, so far, all the findings have been favorable for kratom.

Background

The report results from the World Health Organization's efforts to research and implement an evidence-based approach for dealing with public health concerns related to natural products used as medicine.

The WHO’s findings were based on an examination of the pharmacology of the plant and reports from other countries where it has been consumed for decades without any significant harmful side effects. This announcement comes after recent concern about the potential for abuse, dependence, and harm to public health from mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, which are the active compounds in kratom.

Key Findings

Overall, the committee found that the compounds in kratom have not shown any signs of being particularly liable to cause dependence or abuse. The committee was also careful to note that its findings were based on a review of currently available scientific evidence.

Here are some of the most critical findings from the committee:

  • "Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are partial agonists at the mu-opioid receptor. Human studies demonstrate the analgesic effects of kratom, while kratom extract, mitragynine, and 7-hydroxymitragynine have been shown to be antinociceptive in animal models. The antinociceptive effects are reversed by an opioid antagonist."

  • "Mitragynine also binds to adrenergic receptors, serotonergic and dopamine receptors. Although there is limited information regarding its effects at these receptors, kratom extracts and mitragynine has been reported in animal studies to have a variety of non-opioid-like behavioral effects, including antidepressant and antipsychotic effects."

  • "People report using kratom to self-medicate a variety of disorders and conditions, including pain, opioid withdrawal, opioid use disorder, anxiety, and depression. Kratom is being used as a part of traditional medicine in some countries. Research is ongoing to determine the basic pharmacology and the potential therapeutic value of kratom, mitragynine, and 7-hydroxymitragynine."

  • "Kratom is used for self-medication for a variety of disorders, but there is limited evidence of abuse liability in humans. Cessation of regular use of kratom may lead to withdrawal symptoms."

Final Recommendation

While the report concluded that there is insufficient evidence to recommend a critical review of kratom, the committee recommended that kratom, mitragynine, and 7-hydroxymitragynine be kept under surveillance by the WHO Secretariat.

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