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New Kratom Research Demonstrates Potential Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Published on 09 March 2020

Susruta Majumdar, Ph.D., associate professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, recently co-authored a paper demonstrating that certain alkaloids from the plant kratom could potentially be developed into a treatment for alcohol use disorder.

The paper, which was featured in the British Journal of Pharmacology, was the result of a collaboration between Majumdar and Richard van Rijn, Ph.D., associate professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Purdue University, as well as other researchers from Purdue University. Majumdar also collaborated with researchers at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in New York, including Rajendra Uprety, Ph.D., who had previously worked for Majumdar at MSK in a postdoctoral position.

“I had heard anecdotal stories about people using kratom to combat alcohol use disorder, and I became curious,” Majumdar explained. “I contacted Dr. van Rijn because he studies alcohol use disorder, and I study kratom, so we designed the study together and collaborated on the research.” 

Majumdar is a leading expert on kratom and has been focused on research to study its therapeutic potential to treat opioid addiction. He conducts his current research at the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, a collaborative research center staffed by faculty from the College and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

His latest study gave him an opportunity to further his kratom research and expand his understanding of the relationship between opioid receptors and alcohol use disorder.

“Alcohol affects the brain differently than opioids because it interacts with a different set of opioid receptors,” Majumdar explained. “We discovered that some of the alkaloids in kratom could potentially be developed to target these opioid receptors in order to create precision treatments for alcoholism.”  

Although the study proved that some alkaloids from kratom could be used therapeutically for alcohol use disorder, Majumdar cautions that self-medicating with kratom is dangerous because it has addictive properties when consumed orally.

“We want to stress that kratom alone isn’t a cure for those struggling with alcohol use disorder,” Majumdar explained. “But in the long run, this research could help find a solution to a very common health problem, and that’s exciting. What I want to do in my work is improve public health, and this is one project that might do that.”

The project was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the U.S. Department of Defense.

View the full text of this study in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

For details about the wide range of research currently underway at the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, visit clinicalpharmstl.org. To learn more about research at the College, visit stlcop.edu/research.

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