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Published on July 15th, 2019

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Cali Botanicals

At the height of the opioid crisis in America, kratom, an herb that is itself an addictive substance, not to mention banned in several states, is being widely promoted as a treatment for opioid addiction and withdrawal.

“Kratom has essential uses in combating opiate addiction and the harrowing withdrawal that comes with trying to kick the habit,” Cali Botanicals, a seller of kratom powders, capsules and tinctures, said on its website.

But not only has kratom not been proven to be an effective treatment for opioid addiction and withdrawal, its use has been linked to a number of side effects including dizziness, drowsiness and even death. The FDA recently warned Cali Botanicals that marketing its kratom products with such unproven claims in addition to delaying patients’ path to recovery, puts them at even greater risk.

Additional unapproved drug treatment claims cited in the June warning letter include:

  • “Kratom leaves have long been known to alleviate opioid addiction … addicts can wean themselves off of their addictions by replacing their drugs with kratom…” (website)
  • “[Kratom] has very mild, opioid-like effects in larger doses. When taken this way, kratom is seen as life-saving by former addicts, who found kratom to be the only way they could overcome their addictions. Between kratom and CBD, kratom is considered the better opioid substitute.” (website)
  • “Kratom is frequently used as a natural alternative to treat depression, anxiety, addiction, diabetes, chronic pain and fatigue. … Kratom has been reported to have taken the place of brand name drugs like Hydrocodone and Oxycodone for individuals, all the way to weaning people off of Heroin.” (Facebook post)
  • “Some researchers have even claimed that kratom can protect you against cancer!” (website)

Among the Cali Botanicals kratom products named in the letter were Borneo Yellow Vein Kratom, Cali’s Best Premium Powder Mix, Green Malay Kratom Caps and Full Spectrum 50x Kratom Tincture.

As of February 2018, the FDA had identified 44 reported deaths associated with the use of kratom. The Center on Addiction, meanwhile, notes that kratom is listed as a controlled substance in 16 countries including Australia, Germany and Malaysia (the herb is indigenous to Southeast Asia), and banned in several states including Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

While it’s tempting to seek alternative treatments as calls for Big Pharma to be held responsible for the opioid crisis grow louder, it’s important to remember that marketing supplements as having the ability to treat, cure, alleviate the symptoms of, or prevent developing diseases and disorders is simply not permitted by law. If a supplement really could do all that, then it would be a drug subject to rigorous study and testing to gain FDA approval.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, you can search for local treatment centers here.

Find more of our coverage on addiction here.

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Only drugs can be marketed as having the ability to diagnose, cure, treat, prevent or mitigate a disease, and the only way for a product to gain legit drug status is by getting FDA approval, which means any product that doesn’t get FDA approval can’t say it has the ability to diagnose, cure, treat, prevent or mitigate a disease.

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