NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States, is continuing to investigate the potential of kratom's alkaloids as medications. Specifically, the institute is working with NCATS (National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences) to determine whether one or more kratom alkaloids can enter human trials.
The news came from Geoff Laredo, the former Senior Policy Analyst at NIDA, during a recent Kratom Advocacy webinar hosted by the American Kratom Association (AKA). "This is more of an outright medications development focus," said Laredo, who now works with the AKA.
Laredo noted that some kratom advocates might be skeptical of NIDA's efforts to develop kratom or parts of kratom as medications. Historically, the pharmaceutical industry hasn't taken an interest in kratom's medical utility because, as a plant, it cannot be patented for profit. As a result, some kratom community members believe that the pharmaceutical industry stands in opposition to kratom as a natural product that threatens to reduce their profits from similar drugs. But Laredo remains optimistic.
"I would encourage us as advocates to be supportive of [NIDA's] approach ... remember, this is the NIH, and the NIH are working with the FDA. It would be foolish of us to not expect a medications development approach to be happening," said Laredo. He also noted that NIDA's evaluation of kratom as a medication is one of many efforts led by the institute and its parent agency, the NIH (National Institutes of Health).
"If that were the only thing that was happening, that would be a problem. It's not the only thing that's happening, but [NIH is] used to this. So let's support them in that work as long as they're doing other things as well," clarified Loredo.
According to Loredo, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is also investigating the potential health impacts of mitragynine (one of kratom's primary psychoactive alkaloids) on other organs and systems of the body. But so far, the investigation's results have been promising.
"The data that exists so far on that is still relatively in our favour. But the fact of the matter is that we need to know, and we want to know. If there's something negative from kratom use or any of the alkaloids to any of the biological systems in humans, we want to know what that is. If there's something there, we want to know how to mitigate it, either by not using the product or by doing something else to mitigate that use."