In early June of 2018, supporters of the controversial drug, kratom, converged on the U.S. capitol in droves to protest the intent to ban a substance that, according to surveys, is being used by 3 to 5 million Americans. Kratom use amongst the populous is hovering at an all-time high while advocates and proponents deal with a looming federal ban on the drug.
For those who’ve come to know kratom, it’s far more than an evergreen tree that hails from Southeast Asia. According to Forbes’ David Kroll, kratom has “pain-relieving alkaloids present” in its pharmacology. However, that doesn’t mean that kratom is without risk. In fact, according to the DEA and FDA, kratom is an opioid-like drug that’s on the radar of the government.
It’s so controversial that on August 31, 2016, the DEA attempted to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 (Class 1) controlled substance. That would put in the annals with drugs like heroin, cocaine and LSD. However, upon signaling its intention, various groups of vendors filed lawsuits against the to block this move by the government. Subsequently, the government was forced to drop its attempts to do so.
What does that mean going forward? While the government has since dropped its attempts to make kratom a highly illegal drug, most states have stilled banned kratom. In fact, not only have states banned kratom, but cities like Sarasota, located within states where kratom is still legal (i.e. Florida) have gone ahead and decided to ban it on a state level.
In fact, kratom is so controversial that some countries have banned it outright. Even more? Some of those countries are places where kratom grows and originates from. Countries like Malaysia and Burma, amongst others. Clearly, there must be an issue if countries where kratom grows are banning it, right?
That may or may not be the case. One study entitled “Pharmacology of Kratom: An Emerging Botanical Agent With Stimulant, Analgesic and Opioid-Like Effects”, conducted by Walter C. Prozialeck, PhD, Jateen K. Jivan, BS and Shridhar V. Andurkar, PhD states that “Despite its long history and widespread use in Southeast Asia, kratom has only recently begun to receive attention and be used as an herbal remedy in the West.”
The study finds that “more than 20 active compounds have been isolated from kratom, and considerable evidence shows that these compounds do, in fact, have major pharmacologic effects.” They go on to state that “In Southeast Asia, kratom has long been used for the management of pain and opium withdrawal. In the West, kratom is increasingly being used by individuals for the self-management of pain or withdrawal from opioid drugs such as heroin and prescription pain relievers. It is these aspects of kratom pharmacology that have received the most scientific attention.”
Is A Kratom Ban Inevitable?
While it’s unclear whether the federal government will ban kratom, both the DEA and the FDA have the controversial drug in its sights. The reason? Kratom has an opioid-like effect that has been well documented here, here and here. This “has been attributed to the presence of the indole alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.”
One thing that’s alarming to the government is the potential for physical dependence that could develop with kratom, along with harmful withdrawals. In a study entitled, Antinociception, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms induced by 7-hydroxymitragynine, an alkaloid from the Thai medicinal herb Mitragyna speciosa, the researchers analyzed the potential for withdrawal from kratom by analyzing one of its primary alkaloids, 7-hydroxymitragynine.
The study found that “Tolerance to the antinociceptive effect of 7-hydroxymitragynine developed as occurs to morphine. Cross-tolerance to morphine was evident in mice rendered tolerant to 7-hydroxymitragynine and vice versa. Naloxone-induced withdrawal signs were elicited equally in mice chronically treated with 7-hydroxymitragynine or morphine. 7-Hydroxymitragynine exhibited a potent antinociceptive effect based on activation of μ-opioid receptors and its morphine-like pharmacological character, but 7-hydroxymitragynine is structurally different from morphine.”
Antinociceptive means that it inhibits the sensation of pain. That property of kratom has made it a far more cost-effective means for pain management, since buying kratom is far less expensive than alternatives such as prescription drugs. Is the potential kratom ban by the federal government related to a lobbying by Big Pharma companies? That conspiracy has certainly been posed online and elsewhere.
However, whatever the reason might be for kratom to be in the crosshairs of the federal government, a blanket ban on kratom could severely impact the kratom economy, in the United States. Currently, kratom is sold in