Kratom is a plant — Mitragyna speciosa — that grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. In the U.S., kratom is sold in pills, leaves, capsules, powders, and tea.
Kratom activates the same opioid receptors in the brain as morphine. It is used recreationally for mild pain-killing or euphoric effects.
Kratom is also becoming a popular alternative to methadone, helping some addicts wean themselves off much stronger drugs like heroin.
There are no FDA-approved uses for kratom and the agency has received concerning reports about its safety, including deaths. Kratom also appears to have properties that expose users to a risk of addiction, abuse, and dependence.
The FDA is now investigating an outbreak of Salmonella, a bacteria that can cause severe or life-threatening food poisoning.
As of February 16, the Salmonella outbreak includes 28 people in 20 states: Alabama (1), Arizona (1), California (3), Colorado (1), Florida (1), Kansas (1), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (1), North Carolina (2), North Dakota (1), New York (1), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (2), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (1), and Utah (2).
Eleven of these people have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported. The outbreak victims range in age from 6 to 67 years.
No specific brand-names or suppliers of kratom have been identified, but all of the victims have been confirmed to be sick with a rare strain of Salmonella — meaning the victims are likely to share a common source of infection. Furthermore, 8 out of 11 (73%) of victims who were interviewed reported using kratom in pills, powder, or tea.