Kratom, the controversial drug proponents of which argue could help combat the opioid epidemic, contains opioid compounds and has the potential for abuse, according to a reportissued by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday.
“As the scientific data and adverse event reports have clearly revealed, compounds in kratom make it so it isn’t just a plant—it’s an opioid,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.
Kratom refers to a plant originating in southeast Asia, where its leaves are chewed to relieve pain, improve mood, and as a stimulant. In recent years it has spread to the United States, where it is sold in pill form, consumed in tea, or smoked.
Kratom is legal at the federal level, but regulators have voiced concerns about its opioid-like effects. In the summer of 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced that it was listing several of kratom’s active ingredients as a schedule 1 drug on an emergency basis, putting it in the same group as heroin, LSD, and MDMA.