“The (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) is responsible for ensuring standards of quality and consumable products and if there’s no standard of quality for kratom, you have no idea what you’re getting …
POCATELLO – Bannock County Coroner Ely Taysom did not know kratom existed before the drug was discovered in the system of Ariel Fernando Arellano, a 22-year-old Pocatello man found dead of hypothermia in April.
Since then, Taysom has delved into the intricacies of the drug and been troubled to find that some view kratom as “harmless”, which has motivated him to inform the public that it is dangerous to over-consume the drug.
“I had conversations with individuals who believe kratom is harmless, and it’s impossible to overdose on kratom, and that concerns me because it is possible to overdose on kratom,” Taysom said.
Kratom, legal and unregulated, is sold locally and online. The substance has stimulant and sedative effects, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency that lists it under “drug of concern.” Kratom has been used for opiate withdrawal, anxiety and for something as simplistic as a cough, according to WebMD.com, which stated there is not scientific verification that the drug remedies the aforementioned symptoms.
“There are no regulations controlling its production, so the risk of getting kratom that is tainted with other drugs or substances is very high,” Taysom said. “The (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) is responsible for ensuring standards of quality and consumable products and if there’s no standard of quality for kratom, you have no idea what you’re getting. It could be laced with anything.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed overdose deaths from 32 states and the District of Columbia from July 2016 through December 2017, finding 91 cases in which kratom was a contributing factor of a death, including seven in which kratom was the only substance found in postmortem toxicology.
Arellano did not suffer a drug overdose, but drugs were a factor according to autopsy and toxicology reports. Marijuana was the other drug found in Arellano’s system, but kratom was clearly a larger factor based on blood concentration of the two substances, according to Taysom.
Taysom said that amount of kratom in Arellano’s system was similar to documented cases of kratom intoxication and was significantly higher than amount used for medicinal purposes.
“He was intoxicated enough that he was unable to help himself or find shelter, which was why he succumbed to hypothermia,” Taysom said.
Taysom reiterated he is only trying to educate the public of the potential for overdose of the drug — not saying whether the drug should be illegal or not, if it should be used or if something should be done politically.
“I’m in a unique position where I see the effects of all these behaviors at their very worst,” Taysom said. “So I’m in a unique position as far being able to shed light on certain situations and the possibility for fatality regarding different behaviors. It’s not my job to prevent death. I’m at the coroner. My job is to investigate death, so I don’t believe it’s my responsibility to advocate for the illegality of kratom. That’s not what I’m trying to do. It’s my responsibility to report my findings and my experiences in the hopes that the individuals who are responsible for preventing that kind of behavior can use that information to advise the public.”