A team of experts is conducting preclinical studies that will determine the value of Kratom
in treating substance abuse withdrawal symptoms in humans.
School of Pharmacy faculty member Christopher R. McCurdy and his colleagues isolated Kratom's most abundant alkaloid, mitragynine, and tested the pure compound. They found that the compound's activity is superior to methadone when tested in mice habituated to morphine and that carefully created variations may provide an alternative to methadone in treating addictions to opiates, according to the Medical Xpress report.
"Mitragynine completely blocked all withdrawal symptoms and could provide a remarkable step-down-like treatment for people addicted to hardcore narcotics
such as morphine, oxycodone or heroin," McCurdy explained. "The compound has been known for years, but we're working to come up with an improved synthetic analog or a better formulation of the tea for testing in humans."
Collaborating on the study is Dr. Edward W. Boyer, an opium treatment specialist and a professor of emergency medicine and director of medical toxicology at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.
McCurdy said Dr. Boyer has been instrumental in gathering the information they needed in determining the dosages and frequencies of Kratom use
for their animal studies.
The clinicians also analyzed a sample by a patient, who had been using Kratom four times a day for more than three years, arriving with seizures at the University of Colorado emergency room. They found that the seizures resulted from co-administration of Modafinil and not due to Kratom use.
"We have been able to distinguish the effects of kratom from those of other drugs whose presence was unanticipated," Dr. Boyer said. "This has allowed us to document that some toxicity of kratom is actually from other pharmaceutical agents that had been added."
Kratom, a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, has been listed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a "drug of concern" because of its abuse potential. But for the several millions of Americans, Kratom helps them manage chronic pains
and deal with opioid withdrawal.
"There's still a long way to go, but our research team is motivated to complete the preclinical studies necessary to allow us to start doing human studies," McCurdy added.