Kratom may be particularly risky for older adults seeking pain relief

Chronic pain is a terrible problem without an adequate solution. Many people resort to opioid medication for pain relief, but concerns about addiction have resulted in many doctors reducing or eliminating the narcotics offered to patients. Many people turn to alternative options for pain relief as a result, and one popular solution is a plant called kratom.

Research on the topic of kratom use among older adults was recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, revealing that calls about kratom to poison control centers in the US have increased substantially. Of the calls about kratom, around 5-percent involved adults age 60 or older, nearly half of whom faced "life-threatening" issues or "significant disability" as a result of the plant product.

The study looked at calls to US poison centers from 2014 to 2019 using data from the American Association of Poison Control Center's National Poison Data System (NPDS). Of the calls related to kratom exposure in adults ages 18 and older, 4.6-percent involved adults ages 60 and older.

According to the researchers, most of the calls were placed by healthcare facilities specifically about kratom consumption, with more than 74-percent of cases involving intentional use of the product. Compared to younger people, the study found that 21.9-percent of uses in adults ages 70 and older resulted in some kind of adverse reaction.

Both cardiovascular and neurological effects were identified in these patients, 23 of whom later died in association with the kratom use. As a result, the researchers are warning the public that older adults may be of particular risk when it comes to kratom use, including from things like falling or interactions with their existing medications.