$11 Million Awarded to Family of Woman Who Died After Taking Kratom

By   |  August 1, 2023

By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2022 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

TUESDAY, Aug. 1, 2023 (HealthDay News) – The family of a mother of four who collapsed and died while cooking breakfast has been awarded $11 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The cause of death for Krystal Talavera, 39, involved the opioid-like herb known as kratom.

The lawsuit had alleged that the herb’s distributor, Grow LLC, had marketed the product as an all-natural supplement, NBC News reported.

“Never in a million years did she think that the kratom would kill her,” Tamara Williams, a lawyer representing Talavera’s estate, told NBC News.

Talavera, who lived in Florida, died in June 2021. Her death was due to “acute mitragynine intoxication,” according to the Palm Beach County Coroner. Mitragynine is one of two primary chemical compounds found in kratom, NBC News reported.

At high concentrations, the substance can cause sedation, nausea, vomiting, addiction, difficult breathing and death.

Kratom does not have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, but is sold online and at convenience stores, NBC News reported. Some states have banned it. The FDA has warned of the risk of liver toxicity and seizures when taking it.

“Most kratom users don’t realize how unregulated it is whenever they’re using it,” Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician and cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told NBC News.

“At the same time, I do think it’s really sad how desperate people are because we’re under-treating chronic pain and we’re under-treating addiction and a lot of this is just really coming out of people’s sheer desperation,” he added.

Talavera was taking kratom for pain management, NBC News reported.

Science on kratom’s benefits is inconclusive, and a lack of regulation also means the substance as it's now sold may be contaminated, NBC News reported. In 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency even attempted to temporarily ban the substance.

No solid scientific evidence proves kratom to be effective at pain relief or better at treating substance use disorder than current drugs, Dr. C. Michael White, head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Connecticut, told NBC News.

“People will say, ‘Hey, this is really, really great for helping my pain,’” White said.

While kratom may help relieve pain for those with opioid addiction, others with chronic pain should avoid it because it is addictive, White noted.

“There have been some case studies of people getting so addicted to kratom, they’ve actually needed suboxone to come off it, which is what we use to get people off heroin and oxycodone,” Grinspoon added.

Grinspoon also wondered if kratom was the sole cause of Talavera’s death.

“Tons of people use it and these horror stories are few and far between, but they are pretty awful horror stories,” Grinspoon said.

About 1.7 million people ages 12 and up used kratom in 2021, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Most did not have life-threatening side effects or die.

About 80% of kratom-related deaths involved a history of substance misuse, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Williams said Talavera’s family wants increased regulatory oversight over kratom and for the United States to discourage its sale until it’s regulated.

Mac Haddow, a senior public policy fellow at the American Kratom Association, said his group also wants more regulation, NBC News reported.

“The FDA’s irresponsible war on kratom and the agency’s refusal to implement product manufacturing and marketing standards has led to the marketing of dangerous kratom products exposing consumers to unacceptable risks,” Haddow said.

More information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has more on kratom.