Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The Food and Drug Administration has announced that the popular herbal drug kratom has opioid properties and should not be used to treat addiction.
The FDA said Tuesday that claiming kratom is benign because its "just a plant" is "shortsighted and dangerous," as heroin comes from plants as well.
"We recently conducted a novel scientific analysis using a computational model developed by agency scientists, which provided even stronger evidence of kratom compounds' opioid properties," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a statement.
Gottlieb said the FDA documented 44 cases in which kratom was involved in a death; some were otherwise healthy young people.
Many people killed by kratom often mixed the drug with other substances, including inhaler chemicals and over-the-counter cold and flu medicine.
The FDA is warning individuals to avoid using kratom, which has been used by some as a remedy for opioid addiction and to treat addicts' medical conditions, as the herbal drug is "predicted to affect the body just like opioids" do.
"There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use," Gottlieb said, adding that consumers using kratom for pain relief could seek other "safe" non-opioid options.
"We recognize that many people have unmet needs when it comes to treating pain or addiction disorders," he said.
"For individuals seeking treatment for opioid addiction who are being told that kratom can be an effective treatment, I urge you to seek help from a healthcare provider. There are safe and effective, FDA-approved medical therapies available for the treatment of opioid addiction."
In November, the FDA issued a warning urging consumers to not use kratom or any compounds found in the plant.