- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2018

At least 87 people in 35 states have been sickened by salmonella linked to kratom powder, a botanical herb used as a mild stimulant and pain reliever but criticized by authorities as a dangerous opiate.

At least 27 people have been hospitalized, according to the latest numbers published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.

At least one wholesaler was identified as of having contaminated products that made it into the public market. Portland, Oregon, supplier PDX Aromatics last week issued a recall of 10,000 units of three of its products for salmonella contamination.

At least two of three strains of salmonella were found in samples of kratom collected and also from ill people, the CDC said, and is advising that people not consume kratom in any form because of possible contamination.

The three strains are Salmonella Okatie, Salmonella Javiana and Salmonella Thompson. Symptoms of poisoning, such as diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, usually occur within 12 to 72 hours. It can last between four days and a week and most people can recover without treatment.

Death is rare and no one has yet died from this outbreak, but sickened people have ranged in age from 6 years old to 67. Young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to salmonella.

It’s unclear how many people actually use kratom. Advocacy groups will put the number between 3 million and 5 million. At least 140,000 people voiced their passion for kratom in 2016 when the herbal plant was under threat of being deemed a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency, essentially banning its use.

In a survey of 10,000 users, many said they use the plant — ingested as a powder either mixed with water or dry — to treat acute or chronic pain, depression, anxiety and, for some, to manage withdrawal symptoms from opioids.

The most prevalent compounds of the plant, which is native to Southeast Asia, are known to activate opioid receptors, which make federal authorities nervous of the potential for abuse, addiction and dependency.

Kratom users say it feels like a relaxing cup of coffee, with small doses giving the user energy and higher doses causing sedation.

Health officials alerted the kratom supplier PDX Aromatics of contamination when one of their products used by a person sick with salmonella tested positive for the strain found across the country. The suppliers of other kratom samples, that tested positive for the same strains of salmonella, have not yet been identified.

People can purchase kratom online or from special botanical herb stores. Kratom is not federally illegal, although seven states and five cities have bans against it. Legislation is pending in seven other states.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that kratom is illegal in Washington D.C. This is not the case. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department said the substance is not banned federally or in D.C.

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