EUGENE, Ore.-- The Food and Drug Administration is warning about a botanical substance sold in our area, Kratom, that's now been linked to 44 deaths. That number is now eight more than the FDA reported in November.
Officials say people are using Kratom to treat conditions like pain, anxiety and depression, but it could come with serious risks.
Kratom is being used as a finely ground powder that comes from a tree in Southeast Asia.
The substance is not FDA approved.
The FDA says data shows Kratom has similar effects to opioids, and carries similar risks of addiction.
KEZI 9 News spoke to Richard Johnson, who owns Midtown Direct smoke shop in Eugene. He said in his opinion, it's just as addictive as other things people use every day. "It's just like video game addiction, anything too much is bad, right, some people have a kind of a coffee thing in the morning. Real similar,” Johnson said.” He also said most of the customers at midtown only use Kratom short term... and don't have any problems.
Lane County Public Health officials said it could be more serious than a simple coffee addiction. “It's best to use products and systems, like physical therapy, or some other service, that has been vetted and scientifically proven to work. Otherwise, you're sort of treating your body like a guinea pig," Dr. Patrick Luedtke with Lane County Public Health said. Luedtke said he hopes the FDA will continue to research Kratom. He says there are many different varieties of the substance to be studied.
The FDA isn't ruling out Kratom altogether, they said they're willing to re-evaluate evidence that could merit medicinal use. But as of now, they said, there has not been a submission of evidence that meets their standard for that approval.