Leading Fibromyalgia Doctor Says Wait on Kratom

By Ginevra Liptan, M.D.

(Editor’s Note: Dr. Ginevra Liptan opened one of the first practices in the U.S. to treat fibromyalgia—something she has been fighting as a patient since she was in medical school. A recent note she sent caught our attention and we asked for permission to run it as a blog.)

Ginevra Liptan, MD

This article in Harpers is really worth reading. It brought me to tears in describing how the backlash against opiates has only added more suffering to those in chronic pain. Here are two key quotes:

A patients asks: “Can’t it be possible to tackle addiction and care for those who are in pain? Can’t we do both?”

A doctor says the opiate addiction crisis stems from “a perfect storm of scarcity: a lack of access to addiction specialists, a lack of mental health services, and a lack of the knowledge and the wherewithal to effectively treat chronic pain. Throw in poverty and joblessness, and the vicious circle becomes apparent. As a society, we’ve found it easier to dismiss pain patients as addicts, and to regard addicts as criminals, than to confront the tenacity of these American maladies.”

Partly due to lack of access to effective medications, many patients turn to alternative or herbal treatments. I often get asked about kratom, which is an herbal medicine (with pain-killing properties similar to opioids) derived from leaves of a tree in Southeast Asia.

Kratom definitely has some pain-relieving potential, but the jury is still out about safety and side effects, simply because so few studies been done. We are also now learning that kratom can have some of the same side effects as opiates and may negatively affect hormone levels.  One of my male patient reported sexual side effects while taking kratom, and a medical journal recently published a case of kratom causing low testosterone.

Kratom is also sold only on the unregulated supplement market which is risky, as evidenced by recent multistate Salmonella outbreak that prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a recommendation against the consumption of kratom in any form.

So, until we have more research and reliable access to safe sources, I advise avoiding kratom.

Finally, I am putting the finishing touches on my eBook The Fibro Food Formula: A Real-life Approach to Fibromyalgia Relief. It has taken me way longer than I had hoped, but is coming out soon on Amazon.com, so stay tuned.

For more information on Dr. Liptan, visit her website.

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