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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A new study published this week by the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found a dramatic increase in calls to U.S. poison control centers for kratom exposure, and highlighted the need to educate pregnant women on the dangers.

It comes in pills and powder, but no matter the form, the leaves from the tropical kratom tree can used to do the same thing: treat pain, depression, anxiety and even help with opioid withdrawal. 

“It’s a natural plant that people look at and say oh it’s natural it’s safe but it’s a very potent plant,” Henry Spiller, MS, DABAT, co-author of the study and director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital said.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says the leaves contain compounds that can cause effects similar to both opioids and stimulants by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain, resulting in sedation, pleasure and decreased pain, especially when taken in large doses. In small amounts, the NIDA says users report increased energy, sociability and alertness.

However, even though it’s natural, Spiller said people need to be cautious. 

“People aren’t aware of the risks of this,” Spiller said.  

The study states that the annual number of calls to poison control centers increased drastically, going from about 13 calls in 2011 to close to 700 calls in 2017–that’s the equivalent of about one call per month to two calls per day, with two thirds of these exposures occuring from 2016 to 2017.

Side effects from the substance range from seizures to even death.

“There’s a whole number of other things that people aren’t aware that this does,” Spiller said.  

Tachycardia, irritability, hypertension, seisures, coma, renal (kidney) failure and death related to the use of kratom were the medical effects noted in the study.

“Kratom use has been associated with a variety of serious medical outcomes, from seizures and coma in adults to severe withdrawal syndrome in newborns,” said Spiller. 

The study also found that kids were exposed, including at least seven newborns. Five of the newborns were experiencing withdrawal. For Spiller, that was the most surprising result of the study.

“We need to let mothers know. This is going to affect your fetus, this is really going to affect your child,” Spiller stressed.

In total, the study says of 48 of those calls were pertaining to exposure of children 12 years of age and younger, and 69 percent of those 48 were under two years old.

Six states–Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin–have made kratom illegal and other municipalities have also banned the substance.

In Ohio, the state pharmacy board said they want to make it a schedule one substance, which falls into the same category as marijuana and heroin.  

However, at the last board meeting they received about 6,000 public comments from both sides of the spectrum and now they are taking time to review those before moving forward with a decision.

Kratom is currently listed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a “drug of concern.” It is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which means product quality, purity and concentration can vary dramatically. 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — More and more Indiana women are dying from pregnancy-related issues.

State lawmakers are trying to figure out why.

Angela Lyttle, a certified nurse midwife and a co-owner of Sacred Roots Midwifery and Birth Center, said Indiana’s maternal mortality rate is double the national average.

Sacred Roots personnel stressed it is important that women visit a care provider when they begin thinking about getting pregnant so they are healthy from the start.

“Are there heart issues that are causing a problem? Diabetes? Just other health issues that we have as a population that certainly play a role in maternal care?” Lyttle asked.

“Most recently, the data I’ve seen is from 2011, our current maternal mortality rate is 51.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 women.”

Keristal Hansell, a prenatal clinical nurse specialist at the birth center, said, “Death has always been a potential outcome of childbirth, but it’s very rare, even in places where the rate is higher.”

Indiana’s maternal mortality rate was why Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law in recent weeks. The law takes effect July 1 and mandates the state create a maternal mortality review committee that lasts until 2023.

Hansell said that the new law “allows a group of well-educated people, who this is their business, it’s everything we do and know, to come together, review those cases together in a very nonpunitive way to say, ‘What can we all do to make it better?'” 

State Sen. Jean Leising, a Republican from Oldenburg, authored the legislation.

“It’s an important issue,” Leising said Wednesday. “It’s a shocking issue that Indiana’s statistics are as bad as they are. I think we’re on the right track to trying to figure out why.”

She added, “That’s the purpose of the bill. Hopefully, we can get enough information over the next five years.”

Leising said she also hopes health care providers will be helped by the new law. The new law sets up an immunity for the agencies reporting deaths to the committee.

“To give doctors and hospitals, to give the opportunity to speak freely about what they think happened when they have a bad outcome,” Leising said.

The committee will review cases, create a prevention strategy and work to figure root causes of pregnancy-related deaths.

Sarah Cline understands. She gave birth to a healthy boy in January, but there were bits of fear with her daughter’s birth two years ago.

“When my daughter was born, I had severe pre-eclampsia,” a pregnancy complication that can cause high blood pressure and damage to the liver, kidneys or other organs, Cline said. “There were certainly risks because it came on all of a sudden. I had a little bit of fear with her, of what that looked like. I was fortunate to have great care.”

The new mother and the Sacred Roots center’s owners said they believe the new law will help women across Indiana.

Cline said, “I think this new law could help calm fears. I think it’s Indiana showing we care.”

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