Over the last several years, kratom has been a trending topic, covered by nearly every single news outlet. NBC News, Global News, Fox News, the New York Times, CBC, and the Huffington Post. This is merely a small subset of companies that covered kratom on their global platforms. Sadly, most of this news is negative due to influence from major drug companies, and government agencies like the DEA and FDA. Why does the FDA want to ban kratom, and what does the future hold for this medical plant?
U.S. Government Agencies Don’t Seem to Like Kratom
Out of the estimated 5 million Kratom users in North America—many of whom use Kratom for pain-relief and sleep management—zero deaths have been attributed to this plant.
So why does the FDA want to ban Kratom? The facts below should shed some light on the situation.
- Major drug companies haven’t learned to profit from kratom yet.
- 75% of the FDA’s annual budget is funded by drug companies.
- Kratom is a plant that can only be cultivated in South-East Asia at the moment.
- Kratom benefits the users in many ways (energy, focus, pain relief) which will take profits away from existing drug companies.
Imagine for a second that you were running the $5.4 billion annual budget of the FDA. And 75% of the budget comes from drug and pharmaceutical companies. Would you want to upset these drug companies by legalizing a plant that relieves the same medical ailments as their portfolio drugs?
Due to their close ties with big pharma, the FDA has worked diligently to spread false news about kratom in order to suppress user growth and keep Americans dependant on prescription meds.
FDA’s “Misinformation” Campaign
In November 2017, the FDA issued a public health advisory on kratom, making the following statements:
- Kratom has similar effects to narcotics like opioids, and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and in some cases deaths;
- Kratom is associated with side effects like liver damage, seizures and withdrawal symptoms;
- 36 death reports associated to the use of kratom products
Leading Drugs and Addiction Experts Refuted the FDA’s Reports
These claims were refuted by an 8-Factor Analysis (8-FA) completed by Jack Henningfield, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading experts on addiction, and the effects of drug. In Dr. Henningfield’s analysis, he included the following:
- Among the 3-4 publicly documented deaths that are suspected to involve the consumption of kratom, none have been shown to merit designation as a kratom overdose death. All of the deaths reported have either involved other substances or physical or mental health conditions that may have been the primary contributors to death.
- The pharmacology of kratom and more specifically its alkaloids (MG and 7-OH-MG) are generally mild and caffeine stimulant-like at lower dosages. Consumption doesn’t typically interfere with work or social activities. In fact, kratom is widely reported in the US, as in Southeast Asia, to contribute to work productivity, quality of life, and social relationships.
- Consumption of kratom products appears to provide positive benefits such as relief of pain and fatigue without the adverse consequences produced by other products that are used for similar purposes as reported in the appended testimonials and over a century or more of documented consumption in Southeast Asia.
Dr. Henningfield’s delivered his findings to the DEA and FDA immediately following the public health advisory. The FDA also received several similar scientific studies documenting the safety and the very low addiction profile of kratom—affirming the safety of continued kratom use. Truthfully, this data should have helped inform the FDA about the safety of kratom. However, the Agency was clearly unwilling to factor in this data in their assessments of kratom and continued to execute public attacks on the plant.
Kratom Legalization and Support from Government
Despite negative news and pushback by government agencies, many U.S. politicians and government officials are supportive of the plant. In fact, several states have legalized Kratom due to its promising medicinal properties. Kratom provides many benefits to the body, including:
- Pain relief
- Energy boost
- Mood enhancement
- General well-being
- Relief from withdrawal symptoms
Another huge factor that led to legalization of kratom across so many U.S. states was the formation of the American Kratom Association (AKA). The AKA is a not-for-profit organization formed by kratom consumers and advocates. Backed by a team of legal advisors and funding from the local kratom community, the AKA “is committed to restoring full consumer access to kratom and to preserve and protect the freedom of consumers in the US.”
In 2019, the AKA had an amazing year, building tremendous momentum for Kratom towards the path of legalization. With the support of a large online community, the AKA persuaded 4 states to sign the “Kratom Consumer Protection Act” (KCPA): Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Georgia. These bills serve as proof to legislators that Kratom is a legitimate herbal supplement with incredible healing properties.
What is the Kratom Consumer Protection Act?
The KCPA is a bill that aims to regulate kratom in individual states. Its purpose is to educate the authorities and serve as a guideline for kratom sales and distribution to protect the safety of consumers. However, states can modify and amend it. Furthermore, because the bill is signed on a state-by-state basis, any bills passed federally will supersede the rules listed in the KCPA.
Some of the statements proposed in the KCPA are:
- Only individuals over the age of 18 can buy kratom.
- All kratom products sold need to be labeled.
- Production, sales, and distribution of adulterated, contaminated, or otherwise unsafe kratom products cannot be sold.
- Kratom vendors cannot produce, import, or sell any kratom products that have greater than 2% 7-hydroxymitragynine content.
- Vendors must state the contents of any kratom product, including the exact alkaloid content, and the origin of the product.
- Producing, selling, or distributing contaminated, adulterated, or otherwise unsafe kratom or kratom products leads to fines or incarceration.
Which States Successfully Signed the Kratom Consumer Protection Act?
Utah became the first state to regulate kratom. In March 2019, the Utah Senate reviewed and passed the KCPA. One month later, Arizona and Georgia passed the KCPA one after the other.
Nevada joined these states and regulated kratom a month later.
The Future of Kratom and Potential Regulation
The FDA is in a tough situation: make your biggest donor and supporter happy or save millions of lives. Of course, in reality, the situation is not as black and white. Many of us pushing Kratom are biased because the plant once saved our lives. And we will occasionally publish facts about the long-term dangers of opioids and prescription drugs. The difference is we don’t have as much power to influence regulators and legislators. And we certainly don’t have the intention to ban prescription drugs. In fact, we recognize that prescription drugs have their place in our lives and are indeed good short-term remedies to our medical ailments. What we are hoping for is the freedom and option to choose either prescription drugs or kratom depending on our personal needs.
We know there are morally and ethically sound options for the regulation of Kratom. We’ve seen this done before with cannabis and their century-long battle with regulators. For instance, we can regulate the sale of Kratom for minors (similar to alcohol and cigarettes). This way, only those who are old enough to do their own research and make their own judgments can purchase Kratom. Kratom advocates are in this for the long-haul—fully understanding that legalization is years or even decades away.