Why the CDC is Wrong about Kratom

CDC Kratom Emerging Public Health Threat

The CDC recently reported that calls to poison control centers regarding Kratom have increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2015, with a total of 660 calls, increasing annually from 26 to 263 per year. Sound scary?

Misleading perhaps.

Here’s why…

The industry is booming, and that means more people are taking it for all kinds of beneficial health reasons. Unfortunately, a small percentage of those that take Kratom are in it for the false “legal high” that they hear spun about in the media. Often in these cases, they choose to mix it with all sorts of harmful synthetics like K2 and opiates. The result, as you can imagine, could typically end up in the emergency room or with a call to the poison control center.

Comparing Kratom with Energy Drinks, E-Cigarettes and Coffee

Now that we acknowledge that there are a small percentage of individuals taking Kratom irresponsibly, let’s compare those minor dangers that exist with Kratom to other studies.

  • Energy drinks[i] – from 2009-2011 there were 16 deaths related to energy drinks like Monster, 5-hour Energy and Rockstar alone. There have been zero reported deaths from Kratom itself.
  • E-Cigarettes[ii] – In the state of Winsconsin alone, Poison Control Center reports that from 2010-2015, E-Cigarettes accounted for 98 total calls. Annual calls grew from 2 to 35. This increase is much greater than Kratom, and E-cigarettes do not even have the medicinal value that Kratom has.
  • Coffee[iii] – a study spanning 13 years reported that in that period, 48,177 caffeine related calls were recorded in the National Poison Data System (NPDS), which comes to 3,706 caffeine calls annually. Given that since 2000, there have been approximately 2.5 million total poison center calls per year, that means:

Caffeine related calls are only 0.2% of all poison center related calls. That doesn’t sound too bad.

Now, let’s calculate where Kratom falls among that statistic.

With the help of the CDC report, we have crunched the numbers to discover how pervasive Kratom calls are within NPDS. We compared the CDC Kratom statistics with the total number of poison calls annually recorded, as shown in the 2014 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers[iv].

Below we have the graph from the Kratom CDC report for calls per year:

CDC Kratom Graph

Here we have the calculated the data by dividing the total number of Kratom calls per year with the total number of all poison related calls in the NPDS per year.

Each Year Total Number of Kratom Related Poison Calls* Total Number of Poison Related Calls Percentage of Kratom Related Poison Calls
2010 26 2 384 825 0.001%
2011 15 2 334 004 0.0006%
2012 98 2 275 141 0.004%
2013 108 2 188 013 0.005%
2014 155 2 165 142 0.007%

*Total Number of Kratom Related Poison Calls is an approximation of the CDC graph seen above

The percentage of calls to poison centers from 2010-2014 regarding Kratom was only 0.004% of total calls (rounded from 0.0035%).

Based on these calculations, we are able to see the tiny impact that Kratom has when compared with all the other existing poison center calls across the United States.

Consequences of the CDC Report on the Kratom Community

As it stands, statistics like the one reported by the CDC end up creating a firestorm of negative media that enables bloggers and journalists to jump on the bandwagon saying that Kratom is an “emerging public health threat to society”. That is the power of one incorrectly framed study. Not only that, the media doesn’t take into account all the American lives that have significantly improved by the rising use of Kratom and unfortunately there is a lack of funding to make those studies happen.

Where are the statistics on how many people have stopped using prescription pain pills due to Kratom? We need clinical studies that concretely demonstrate the positive effects of Mitragyna Speciosa.

Jane Maxwell Addiction Research Professor

“Jane Maxwell, a research professor at the Addiction Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, said the impact and presence of kratom in Texas, and throughout the nation, appears minimal.

“The only times I really hear about it there will occasionally be people using kratom to detox from heroin, and they end up in the emergency room, and the doctor doesn’t know what it is,” Maxwell said. “It’s pretty minor.”

“Maxwell said the drug is seldom reported in the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, which is a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration database that collects drug identification results from forensic labs throughout the country. The drug database shows kratom was reported 173 times in 2013 and 137 times in 2014—a fraction of one percent of the drugs reported in those years, she said.”

Mitragyna Speciosa is a natural herb with effects that have untold potential to help a wide variety of health problems, but like any other medicine it should be thoroughly researched and taken with knowledge of what it is being using it for.

Kratom Benefits Infographic

Blaming Kratom when it’s mixed with prescription medication is like blaming Aspirin if you take it with alcohol. The two probably didn’t go well together in the first place. Dietary supplements should not be mixed with other drugs. Medicine, first and foremost should always be taken responsibly and Kratom is no exception.

“Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean you can be as stupid as you want with it.” – Susan Lynn Peterson

Kratom usage is increasing because people are realizing how beneficial it can be for their lives. The more structured, researched and regulated the industry becomes the better we can educate others and eventually limit the amount of negative experiences associated with it. Statistics such as the one illustrated by the CDC allows people to jump to conclusions, false ones. Do your research, stay educated and you will find that Kratom is not the “emerging public health threat” that it is said to be.

We hope this clears things up.


(The corresponding author of the CDC article is Royal Law. We urge you to contact the author, Dr. Law at rlaw@cdc.gov or call at 770-488-3416 to inquire about the report and to dig deeper into the validity of their statement)

[i] Caffeine Toxicity, David Yew, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Hawaii, John A Burns School of Medicine, March 31, 2015

[ii] Chatham-Stephens, Kevin et al. “Exposure Calls To U. S. Poison Centers Involving Electronic Cigarettes And Conventional Cigarettes—September 2010–December 2014”. Journal of Medical Toxicology (2016): n. pag. Web.

[iii] McGuire, S. “Institute Of Medicine. 2014. Caffeine In Food And Dietary Supplements: Examining Safety–Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2014”. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 5.5 (2014): 585-586. Web.

[iv] Mowry, J. B., Spyker, D. A., Brooks, D. E., McMillan, N., & Schauben, J. L. (2015). 2014 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 32nd Annual Report. Clinical toxicology (Philadelphia, Pa.), 10, 962–961147.