kratom powderKratom- Pain Reliever or Next Illegal Narcotic?

Kratom is a tree (Mitragyna speciosa) that grows throughout Southeast Asia. Related to the coffee tree, its leaves have been used for centuries or longer for medicinal and recreational uses. The leaves began to be sold in the United States a few years ago. Last fall the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) planned to make the possession of kratom illegal, however they put the decision on hold until further comments could be obtained from the public.


Kratom as a Pain Reliever

Kratom’s recent rise in popularity is due in part to the DEA’s war on drugs which has prevented thousands and thousands of people from legally obtaining pain medications or receiving their medications in high enough doses to adequately control their pain. Subsequently, many people suffering from chronic pain have turned to alternatives such as kratom.

Although it has no scientifically or governmentally approved medical uses, kratom has properties similar to opium, therefore it can help alleviate pain in some people. The leaves can be smoked, chewed or boiled in water to make a tea-like drink. Effects of the drug can be felt within just a few minutes and may last five or more hours.

Kratom as a Drug

Kratom is also developing a fan base among many young people and narcotic-seekers who find the drug to be cheap and available from many sources. Use of the narcotic can provide the sense of euphoria sought after by many drug users. Similar to other already illegal substances such as heroin, kratom can be addictive and require increasing doses for the user to continue receiving the same effects. However, high doses can result in depression of the respiratory system and death. It can also cause high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, liver toxicity, insomnia, psychotic behaviors and seizures. Lower doses can cause constipation, nausea and vomiting, depression, panic attacks, irritability and mood swings.

In low doses kratom can have a stimulating effect, staving off sleepiness and making the user more energetic. In high doses it performs oppositely by causing a lethargic euphoric condition.

Will it Remain Legal?

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the DEA is considering banning kratom sales within the United States. Although their initial ban order was withdrawn in favor of obtaining more public input, few people actually believe that the DEA will allow kratom to remain legal long term. Thailand, were the tree grows naturally, has already made possession of the tree’s leaves illegal. Several countries in Europe including Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Romania along with Australia and New Zealand have either banned the drug or placed restrictions on its sale and use.

Really a Safe Alternative?

Many websites and marketing materials espouse kratom as a safe alternative to many street drugs, although the veracity of that statement is difficult to determine. Illegal narcotics such as heroin have been sold for decades and are potentially used by millions. Since kratom is only now gaining notoriety the number of people using the narcotic is still limited.

About 100 people per year receive medical assistance in the U.S. due to ingesting kratom, a number significantly lower than any common street drug and rivaling some over the counter medications. Between 2014 and 2016 there were fifteen deaths that involved kratom, however in all of the deaths kratom was mixed with another substance possibly in an attempt to enhance its effects.

Final Warning

Purchasing and using kratom is a “Buyer Beware” event. Use of any narcotic substance should not be taken lightly, especially when dosage and purity are not tightly controlled. Most of the drug sold in the United States is a crushed powder. Thus users should be aware that one supplier’s product may contain higher concentrations of kratom than another supplier. Some illegitimate suppliers may even be selling cheap alternative products under the name “pure kratom” just to make money.

As kratom continues to gain popularity, especially among people with chronic pain who are unable to obtain medications from their doctor, we will continue to hear more news stories, both good and bad. Each person should thoroughly research this product, its effects on the body as well as the seller prior to purchasing and ingesting kratom.

Because of its addictive properties, if a person begins taking the drug they will most likely need to be weaned off of it to prevent major withdrawal symptoms and health threats. It may be wise to adopt a “wait and see” attitude prior to starting to take this product until after the DEA publishes its final rule so as not to start something that may not be legally available soon.





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