Salmonella outbreak linked to herbal opioid substitute

Kratom produces effects similar to amphetamines, and is legal in the U.S.
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Ever heard of kratom? Well, it's causing people across the country to go down with salmonella poisoning – including two in Minnesota.

It's a plant native to Southeast Asia whose stimulant effects see it used as an opioid substitute, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

It's also known as Thang, Kakuam, Thom, Ketom and Biak, and can be consumed as pills, powder, or used to make tea.

But an alert has now gone out from federal authorities that the plant is being linked to dozens of cases of salmonella poisoning across the U.S.

According to a release from MDH, 87 cases across 35 states have been linked to kratom.

This includes two adults in Minnesota, who became ill in January. One required hospitalization, but both have since recovered.

Both were reported to have consumed kratom powder prior to becoming ill, and kratom products in other states have tested positive for the bacteria.

Cases reported in other states do not identify a single common brand or supplier of the plant – they were bought from various sites and retailers.

The CDC and MDH are therefore telling people to avoid consuming kratom in any form.

Across the country, ill people range in age from 6 to 67, with just over half of them men.

The effects of kratom

The Food and Drugs Administration says there are no approved uses for kratom, and consumers are advised not to use it because of concerns about its safety.

It isn't a controlled substance under U.S. law, though some states have banned it.

But the FDA's concerns about its abuse mean it could be banned before long, with the agency saying it contains the same chemicals found in opioids.

That said, previous attempts to categorize its ingredients as a Schedule I controlled substances were shelved after a massive public outcry. It saw 23,000 comments and a 140,000 signature petition submitted, many from those who use it as an anti-anxiety remedy, or people trying to wean themselves off opioids.

Drugabuse.com says kratom's effects in low doses are similar to but less intense than amphetamines.

It can lead to increased energy and alertness, decreased appetite, increased sociability and heightened libido.

In higher doses it can be a pain reliever, cough suppressor, and causes a "calm, dreamlike mental state," as well as mitigating the effects of opioid withdrawal.

It can also lead to nausea, vomiting, itching, dizziness, sweating, tremors and constipation, among other side effects.

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