The DEA recently announced plans for banning yet another medicinal herb. Kratom is a herbal supplement that’s grown in popularity over the last few years here in the United States.
People who take kratom for therapeutic purposes say it provides natural, gentle relief for a variety of ailments. Capsules filled with the powdered herb are used to treat social anxiety, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions.
As usual, the DEA will be making sure that kratom gets placed on the Schedule I controlled substances list. The agency reports that they intend to list two of the active compounds found in kratom as Schedule I substances. Kratom joins marijuana as another medicinal plant to be labeled as having “no medicinal value” by the DEA – something we all know isn’t true.
Not too long ago the FDA issued their own warning about kratom. According to KXAN, the agency warned: “We have identified kratom as a botanical substance that could pose a risk to public health and have the potential for abuse.” In January, federal agents seized some 90,000 bottles of dietary supplements containing kratom, despite them being legal at the time. The supplements were taken from Dordoniz Natural Products LLC., located in Illinois, and the total value of the products taken amounted to nearly half a million dollars.
Kratom is made from the leaves of a Southeast Asian tree commonly found in Thailand, and is mostly sold online. According to Jane Maxwell, a research professor from the Addiction Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, kratom appears to be relatively unknown among the population in general.
Susan Ash, the founder and director of the American Kratom Association, is devastated by the DEA’s decision. Kratom is very dear to Ash’s heart; she used the plant to wean herself off prescription pain medication. In fact, many people use the plant to wean themselves off addictive drugs.
What is actually kind of amusing, in a horrible and dark kind of way, is that the DEA is citing the really quite minuscule number of reported exposures as a reason for banning kratom. The agency reported that: “The American Association of Poison Control Centers identified two exposures to kratom between 2000 and 2005. Additionally, the Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN), which is comprised of six poison centers that service the State of Texas, reported 14 exposures to kratom between January 2009 and September 2013.” They also noted that over a period of five years, U.S. Poison Control Centers received 660 calls that related to kratom exposure.
Now, this may seem worrisome, but let’s just make a little comparison to the statistics on opioid drugs, which are currently legal and prescribed prolifically nationwide. Current estimates suggest that there are nearly 2 million Americans addicted to prescription painkillers. Almost 19,000 people die each year from an overdose caused by such prescription pain-relievers.
So, 660 phone calls over five years averages out to 132 phone calls each year to poison control. By banning kratom the DEA is saying that those 132 phone calls each year are somehow more important than the 19,000 people who will die from opioids in that time. There is truly no way for them to rationalize their insistence that this plant is more of an “imminent health hazard” than those prescription drugs.
The real issue at hand here is that people might start using natural plants like kratom or cannabis and stop buying Big Pharma’s “medicines” that are really more like poisons.