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Newborn Drug Testing for Kratom Exposure in Umbilical Cord Tissue Commercially Available

Des Plaines, IL., May 4, 2020—United States Drug Testing Laboratory, Inc. (USDTL), a forensic laboratory specializing in drug and alcohol testing using advanced specimens, has developed a laboratory-based test to detect mitragynine (a.k.a. Kratom) exposure in the umbilical cord tissue. 

Native to Southeast Asia, Kratom is a tropical tree with leaves that contain compounds, such as mitragynine, that can have psychotropic effects.1 Kratom is federally legal in the United States; however, several states have classified it as a Schedule 1 drug with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Several marketers actively sell kratom products with scientifically unsubstantiated claims including to ‘”relieve opium withdrawal” and to “treat a myriad of ailments including but not limited to: diarrhea, depression, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, stomach parasites, diverticulitis, anxiety, alcoholism, and opiate withdrawal.”‘ 2 There has been a growing number of case reports published regarding addiction, withdrawal, and overdoses resulting in death when combining kratom with other substances such as sedatives and antidepressants.3

Kratom is an unregulated over-the-counter drug that has opioid-like activity. Physicians should be aware of the use of kratom and its potential withdrawal effects in the newborn which cannot be picked up by the standard toxicology screening techniques.4

“Kratom is a relatively unknown and unregulated substance, but since it is legal like K2 or Spice used to be, people think it’s safe, so kratom cafes are popping up all over. With increased use and abuse in the population, we knew our neonatologists needed to detect newborn exposure during pregnancy,” said Joseph Jones, Ph.D., NRCC-TC, Chief Operating Officer at USDTL.

Umbilical cord tissue is an excellent long-term drug testing specimen because it starts capturing substances in the newborn’s system up to approximately 20-weeks before birth. For comparison, newborn urine drug testing has a typical lookback window up to approximately 2-3 days before delivery. This longer window of detection for umbilical cord tissue makes it possible to get a better picture of what is going on with the mother and newborn.

“Our mission is to use the best science available to provide cutting edge tools for the analysis and evaluation of exposure to alcohol, substances of abuse, and toxins. Kratom falls into that category because we aren’t just concerned with illicit substances. We recently added newborn gabapentin drug testing for this same reason, whether it is an obviously dangerous and illegal drug like heroin or legal and abused drugs like kratom or gabapentin, it is all dangerous for the newborn. We try our best to develop testing to make detection a reality,” Douglas Lewis, D.Sc., President and Founder of USDTL.


USDTL is a leader in newborn toxicology, alcohol biomarkers, and substances of abuse testing. They specialize in niche areas of forensic drug and alcohol testing by offering the most comprehensive testing panels on the market. They have decades of first to market testing that has been adopted and serve the population health needs of hospitals, legal organizations, and more.


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