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Kratom Use During Pregnancy & Withdrawal Symptoms in Newborns

Kratom, an herbal supplement with effects similar to opioids has caused a significant amount of withdrawal symptoms in two newborns in the United States. While currently legal and widely available in the U.S. these finding is beginning to raise red flags towards pregnant mothers using Kratom during pregnancy.

Kratom Use During Pregnancy Case

The first case involved a baby boy who was exposed to Kratom during pregnant. While this is only the second reported case of withdrawal symptoms for newborns exposed to Kratom, this signifies the growing use of pregnant women seeking alternatives to opioid painkillers, heroin, and oxycodone according to Dr. Whitney Eldridge.

Eldridge is a neonatologist at Morton Plant Hospital and St. Joseph Women’s Hospital located in Florida. According to Dr. Eldridge “I think mothers are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of using prescription and non-prescription opioids during pregnancy”.

Eldridge added, “as opioid use among pregnant women has increased, I fear they may seek kratom as a potentially safe, legal, non-opioid alternative aid for opioid withdrawal, as its opioid-like properties are not well-advertised”.

Kratom Classification

The U.S Food and Drug Administration classified compounds in kratom as opioids in February 2018. Based on a computer analysis of kratom, receptors in the brain are activated in the same manner as opioids.

However, the controversy of kratom continues to remain in full swing. Kratom continues to be sold as a dietary supplement used to manage pain and boost energy. While also continuing to be sold as a non-opioid remedy for opioid withdrawal. Experts say, non-opioid alternatives to treat opioid dependence will continue to be researched and criticized.

Kratom Withdrawal Treatment

On November 7, 2018, the Pediatrics journal published another case involved another newborn boy whose mother had a seven-year history of oxycodone use. However, his mother had successfully completed a drug treatment program two years prior to the birth of her son. Her drug test came back negative in the hospital for drug use.

The mother denied the use of prescription medications, illegal drugs, and supplements during pregnancy. However, the child’s father reported daily use of kratom as an herbal tea throughout the duration of her pregnancy. It was reported the tea was purchased for help with sleep and opioid withdrawal symptoms.

For 8 days after the baby boy was born, he was treated with morphine and blood pressure medication to improve conditions and fortunately was released from the hospital.

Eldridge also added, “prior to this case, I was unfamiliar with kratom and unaware of its protentional to be a source of withdrawal for [newborn babies]. After caring for this infant, I started to pay attention to how heavily kratom is advertised and realized pediatricians and obstetricians need to be familiarized with its potential to affect our patients.”

Further research is needed to make the decision as to how to classify kratom.

Kratom’s Role in Opioid Dependence

While kratom may potentially have a role in opioid dependence, there is currently too little date to define that role. Pregnant women should disclose the use of kratom to their physician just as they would with alcohol and tobacco. It is the physician’s responsibility to educate women on the potential impacts of kratom for their newborn.

Many do not believe that herbal supplements will have impacts on the child as it is a “natural” remedy.

However, Dr. Buscema at Addiction Alternatives has many years of experience with treating opioid dependence in pregnant women. Do not take it upon yourself to detox and find alternatives to treat your dependence especially while pregnant. This process should be done under the care of a licensed psychiatrist specialized to treat opioid dependence to prevent complications.

If you or someone you know is pregnant and struggles with opioid dependence, please give us a call (772) 618-0505.