Older adults are using kratom, often as an alternative to opioids for pain relief.

As the plant-based substance’s popularity has grown, however, so have calls to poison centers, often with severe consequences for older adults.

“It functions a lot like an opioid but it’s not regulated,” explained Janessa Graves, associate professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing and lead author of a new study on kratom exposures among older adults published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“Growing numbers of Americans may consider it for themselves or their parents for pain control because they think it’s safer than an opioid, but the outcomes aren’t great,” she said.

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