Kratom. A solution to the Opioid Crisis?

More than 90 Americans a day are dying from opioid abuse. It is the leading cause of death of adults under the age of 50. Today’s guest, Dr. Christopher McCurdy, is at the forefront of research designed to help the U.S. deal with this drug overdose crisis.

What is Kratom?

Kratom, traditional medicine is known and used for centuries, and its potential benefits for pain relief and opioid withdrawal.  

Native to Southeast Asia, kratom (Mitragyna Speciosa) is a powerful medicinal plant used by thousands throughout the world. The medicinal potentials of this plant are vast, some of the most prominent include pain relief, mood-lifting, energy, and immune system stimulation.

Kratom traditional use in Asia -picking fresh leaves and drinking throughout the day as a tea. It has an additive quality similar to the effect that caffine in coffee has in the western world. However the traditional use of Kratom is a very different products of dried leaves and extracts we see here in America. 

In this episode of HealthMade Radio, Dr. Michael Karlfeldt discusses kratom with one of the leading scientific experts on the plant Christopher R. McCurdy, Ph.D., FAAPS. He is a broadly trained medicinal chemist, behavioral pharmacologist, and pharmacist whose research focuses on the design, synthesis, and development of drugs to treat pain and drug abuse. 

This episode answers the question:

  • What are the differences between kratom and classic opioids?  
  • Is there a therapeutic potential of kratom? What is the synergistic impact on different biological systems? 
  • What are the concerns of mixing kratom with prescription drugs?
  • Is there a difference between Red, Green, and White vein products?
  • If the product isn’t regulated how can buyers avoid adulterated products?
  • What is the potential risk of addiction to Kratom?

Christopher R. McCurdy, Ph.D., FAAPS, is a broadly trained medicinal chemist, behavioral pharmacologist and pharmacist who is internationally known as an expert on kratom, a botanical mixture that has been shown to help people struggling with addiction. He recently became president of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists and has spent his career focusing on the design, synthesis, and development of drugs to treat pain and drug abuse.

For over 20 years, much of his research has focused on opioid, Neuropeptide FF and sigma receptor ligand/probe design, synthesis, pharmacological evaluation and development. He has been successful in discovering unique and selective tools for sigma receptors, NPFF receptors, and opioid receptors. He is an internationally recognized expert on Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), that is under investigation for opioid withdrawal syndrome. A significant portion of his career has been dedicated to the development of novel sigma receptor ligands, in collaboration with a variety of interdisciplinary groups, to generate and optimize selective ligands which could serve as critical experimental tools, and more recently, as potential medication development leads to attenuate the effects of cocaine, methamphetamine, and pain.

Most notably, he has developed a PET/MR imaging diagnostic agent for visualizing the origins of chronic, neuropathic pain by interacting with sigma receptors at the site of nerve damage. First-in-human studies are currently underway in a Phase 0 trial. In addition to his discovery of chemistry roles, McCurdy serves as the director of the UF Translational Drug Development Core. Dr. McCurdy is currently President-Elect of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) and also serves as the Co-Chair of the Special Interest Group on Drug Design and Discovery (DDD) of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).

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