VICE: Thousands of People Are Fighting to Keep Kratom Legal

Kratom’s Battle with the FDA and DEA

Late last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced a plan to temporarily place kratom on the list of Schedule 1 drugs, including heroin, LSD, marijuana, and MDMA—those defined as unsafe, having no accepted medical use in the United States, and with a high potential of abuse. Previously, kratom had largely been off the regulatory radar, sold as a dietary supplement and often shipped in packages labeled “not for human consumption.” As a Schedule 1 drug, kratom would be outlawed. And because the DEA was invoking its emergency scheduling powers, the public had no right to comment.

Late last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced a plan to temporarily place kratom on the list of Schedule 1 drugs, including heroin, LSD, marijuana, and MDMA—those defined as unsafe, having no accepted medical use in the United States, and with a high potential of abuse. Previously, kratom had largely been off the regulatory radar, sold as a dietary supplement and often shipped in packages labeled “not for human consumption.” As a Schedule 1 drug, kratom would be outlawed. And because the DEA was invoking its emergency scheduling powers, the public had no right to comment.

Thousands Respond to the DEA

Yet tens of thousands of people responded, asking the DEA to reconsider via a whitehouse.gov petition. A bipartisan group of 51 members of the US House of Representatives signed a letter opposing the decision, saying it would hurt federal research into opioid addiction and treatment. (The DEA refused to share the data on which it’d based the emergency plan.) The DEA backed down, withdrawing its plan for emergency scheduling. Instead, it would open up public comments—which soon, again, numbered in the tens of thousands of people testifying how kratom had helped them—and would defer a judgment pending research by the Food and Drug Administration.

Legality of Kratom

At the federal level, kratom remains legal, though it’s unclear for how long. But it’s already been outlawed in six states, and bans have been proposed in New York and Florida. Rep. Kristin Jacobs, who filed the Florida legislation, calls kratom “a scourge on society,” pushed by “addicts with glassy eyes and shaky hands,” and suggests there’s a powerful lobby determined to keep it legal. ” They have a story,” she told Florida Politics. “Just like Hitler believed if you tell a lie over and over again, it becomes the truth.” (Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association, a nonprofit group that advocates for consumers, called the remarks “outrageous,” and pointed out that she, like many of the association’s members, uses kratom as an alternative to opioids. She herself is a former opioid addict.)

Kratom Health Benefits

So what is kratom doing, and why does it seem to be working for so many people across so many ailments? The research is in its infancy, says Andrew Kruegel, a pharmacologist who’s working to better understand the plant. “Kratom has been sporadically studied since the 1970s, at least,” he says, and we now understand that a pair of alkaloids—mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine—activate Mu opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Those are the same receptors activated by more well-known opioids such as morphine and heroin. That’s what has the DEA so alarmed, Kruegel says: Kratom looks like something we’ve seen before.

The research is in its infancy, says Andrew Kruegel, a pharmacologist who’s working to better understand the plant. “Kratom has been sporadically studied since the 1970s, at least,” he says, and we now understand that a pair of alkaloids—mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine—activate Mu opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Those are the same receptors activated by more well-known opioids such as morphine and heroin. That’s what has the DEA so alarmed, Kruegel says: Kratom looks like something we’ve seen before.

It also acts in similar ways, providing the pain relief that made opioids useful in the first place. But a potent side-effect of opioids has always been respiratory depression: At high doses you get so sedated that you stop breathing. Additionally, there’s the problem of addiction: Users can become psychologically addicted to the feeling of being high, and with overuse, the body becomes physically dependent on the drug. Without it, painful withdrawal symptoms wrack the body.

While kratom shares the same pain-relieving properties of opioids, it doesn’t seem to have the same effect on breathing. That’s a good thing, obviously; anecdotal reports suggest that high doses of kratom produce nausea without potentially deadly side effects. Some users online have commented that when you take too much Kratom, you will throw up. Addiction, however, is a trickier question. There’s no scientific consensus about kratom’s potential addictiveness—it’s something that simply requires more study.

Source: https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/people-are-fighting-to-keep-their-kratom-high-legal

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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