The Pros and Cons of Kratom
Over the last year or so, a somewhat unknown over-the-counter drug known as kratom has been widely discussed amongst those both for and against its legality. What is kratom? Why is it so controversial? What is the harm it poses? And what benefits does it have, if any?
Kratom is officially called Mitragyna Speciose, which is a tree found in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea. The plant is a relative of the coffee plant and commonly comes as a powder or a drink. The drug can cause an opiate-like high and many people are claiming it helps them.
Signs and symptoms of the drug include:
Low Doses of Kratom:
- Increased alertness, higher energy levels
- Talkativeness, increased sociability
- Greater ability to tolerate tedious tasks
- Some people may get edgy or nervous
Higher Doses of Kratom:
- Insensitivity to physical or emotional pain
- Constricted pupils
- Sudden sleepiness
Overdoses of Kratom:
- Respiratory depression
- Aggressive or combative behavior
- Severe nausea
The drug has become controversial because some argue it is a solution to getting off other opiates such as heroin and pain pills, while others use the drug for pain relief. The other issue is that currently the drug is not scheduled by the DEA—though it came close last year before the decision met with significant backlash from the public. The public uproar caused the DEA to hold off scheduling the drug as a Schedule I, as they had planned.
Schedule I drugs are drugs that:
- Have a high potential for abuse
- Have no currently accepted medical treatment use
- Have a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or substance under medical supervision
The drug—often touted as safe by proponents—does not have any regulations. As a result, the drug is sometimes mixed with other substances and sold in stores. According to Pain News Network, the FDA released a public health advisory in November.
The advisory warned that there were “increasing harms associated with kratom” and that the herb was involved in 36 deaths. The agency did not say when or where the deaths occurred.
In a statement, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said, “There is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder. Patients addicted to opioids are using kratom without dependable instructions for use and more importantly, without consultation with a licensed health care provider about the product’s dangers, potential side effects or interactions with other drugs,”—Read the full article here.
Those who are fighting to keep the drug from being scheduled by the FDA make a valid point. There should be more alternatives to pain medications and addictive opiates. However, the problem lies with the idea that kratom is not addictive—which by simply looking at the fact that it has withdrawal symptoms after prolonged use, paints a different picture.
For now, it is unclear what will happen with the legality and availability of kratom, though it seems evident that we will see some form of legislation on the drug soon. Time will tell if the drug becomes illegal or simply receives a new government regulation.