The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded researchers at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy a two-year, $3.5 million grant to bolster research on Mitragyna speciosia, or kratom, and its potential to treat opioid misuse and physical dependence.
UF College of Pharmacy researchers have studied kratom, which comes from the leaves of a tropical tree from Southeast Asia, as a potential therapy to wean addicts off heroin or prescription opioids. It activates the same opioid receptors and appears to satisfy the craving, while possibly lessening the risk of respiratory depression.
Next they will seek to identify the pharmacology of its 40 alkaloids, test the effects of these individual alkaloids on the brain’s receptors and continue to develop treatment strategies to help addicts quit opioids.
Principal investigators Lance McMahon, Ph.D., a professor and chair of the college’s department of pharmacodynamics, and Chris McCurdy, Ph.D., a professor of medicinal chemistry in the college, say the grant will renew and reinvigorate their research.
Estimates show between 2 million and 4 million people in the United States use kratom, although the substance is poorly understood.