The controversy surrounding Kratom and the pros and cons of its use is nothing new: some praise it as a viable solution to chronic pain and the current opioid abuse epidemic, while others warn that the risks of overdose and new dependency are real and significant enough to justify a Kratom ban and its active ingredients.
When the DEA announced its intentions to place Kratom on the list of Schedule I Drugs with other opioids such as Heroin and Fentanyl, there was a significant outcry from both the general public and legislators. The protests were so numerous in quantity that DEA spokesperson Melvin Patterson claims to have more than 200 Kratom testimonials on his voicemail each morning. A White House petition to reverse the brief ban on Kratom received over 142,000 signatures and a September 13th march in D.C. combined the efforts of education and advocacy groups American Kratom Association and Botanical Education Alliance.
In addition to those means of public protest, several members of Congress presented formal letters of objection:
- A letter of objection to the Office of Management and Budget by Republicans Mark Pocan and Matt Salmon with the signatures of 51 members of the House of Representatives.
- A Dear Colleague objection by Senator Orrin Hatch.
- A strong letter to the DEA by Democratic Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden.
Despite the protests, it still stands that Kratom has not been conclusively proven to have medicinal properties. While many who use Kratom for chronic pain or to treat addiction have found positive results, more research is necessary for Kratom to be formally recognized as an herbal alternative treatment.
Meanwhile others can testify to the dangers associated with Kratom use and misuse- especially when it comes to the so-called ability to treat addiction. Kratom users are often unaware of the addictive qualities of the drug and so don’t realize they are putting themselves in danger of relapse. One such person was quoted:
“I started taking Kratom after being addicted to liquid morphine… It did relieve the opiate withdrawals but when I stopped taking the Kratom, 2 capsules every 4 hours for about 3 weeks, the withdrawals are beyond horrible. I have had over 60 panic attacks since quitting cold turkey…
I would not take a lot and [to] quit it’s no different than opiate withdrawal. My advice is stay as far away from any opiate or opiate antagonist as possible and save yourself from the misery.”
It is important to note that Kratom is known to affect the brain’s receptors differently from classic opioids. Compounds found in the plant-derived drug are known to have self-limiting properties and utilize different neural pathways than drugs such as heroin.
However this does not negate the possibility of addiction as others have suggested.
With the recent reversal of the Kratom ban, the DEA has also opened a period for formal commenting extended to December 1st.