Research by UF CARE Investigators featured in The Scientist: “Is Kratom Safe During Pregnancy? Researchers Start to Investigate”

Research on the psychoactive, natural product Mitragyna speciosa (kratom) by UF CARE members Dr. Lance McMahon (Department of Pharmacodynamics), Dr. Chris McCurdy (Department of Medicinal Chemistry) and Dr. Jay McLaughlin (Department of Pharmacodynamics), and the late Dr. Bonnie Avery (Department of Pharmaceutics) was recently featured in The Scientist.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded multiple grants to the university the to examine kratom, both within the context of opioid use disorders and on its own.   Read the The Scientist feature here.

Researchers are not only investigating kratom’s potentially harmful effects, but also its value in treating opioid withdrawal. “It could have these other modes of action that could be potentially beneficial if we learn how to capitalize on it,” McLaughlin explains. In 2017, the US saw 70,000 drug overdose deaths, in which opioids were involved two-thirds of the time, he notes. “If kratom can help save even ten percent of those people, that’s worthwhile.” – Dr. Jay McLaughlin in The Scientist

Public Health Relevance Statements for UF NIDA Grants on Kratom

Given the current opioid crisis in the United States, there is an urgent need for therapeutics with unique and novel pharmacological mechanisms for opioid use disorders. Recent investigations into mitragynine, the major alkaloid found in Mitragyna speciosa (kratom), have identified a novel approach to new therapeutic mechanisms that have not been previously explored. This involves the combination of G-protein biased µ- opioid receptor and a2 adrenergic receptor activation. Our studies indicate that mitragynine does not exhibit abuse-related effects and can attenuate opioid intake. This application seeks to identify analogs and prodrugs of mitragynine that have drug-like properties as potential innovative treatments for opioid use disorder. – Public Health Relevance Statement for NIDA grant UG3DA048353 “Opioid Use Disorders: UF Pharmacy Medications Discovery and Development” (PIs Dr. Lance McMahon and Dr. Chris McCurdy) NIH RePORTER LinkCollege of Pharmacy News Article


Mitragyna speciosa (kratom) is under intense scrutiny by the US Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration for its potential abuse liability and toxicity. This R01 grant proposal combines natural products chemistry, isolation, and purification with in vitro and in vivo pharmacological testing to identify the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic mechanisms by which kratom produces abuse-related effects. -Public Health Relevance Statement for NIDA grant R01DA047855 “Kratom Alkaloids: In Vitro and In Vivo Pharmacological Mechanisms” (PIs Dr Lance McMahon, Dr. Chris McCurdy, Dr. Bonnie Avery) NIH RePORTER LinkCollege of Pharmacy News Article


(All quotes retrieved August 30, 2019)