Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, the leaves contain substances which can cause mind-altering effects. Right now, it’s legal to buy kratom and it is available as a green powder with the packets labeled “not for human consumption.” The substance contains a chemical called “mitragynine,” which works like an opiate to alleviate pain. How does big pharma feel about the drug and what’s stopping them from profiting from it?
What is Kratom Used For?
Most people use kratom as a pill, extract or in capsule form. Some people will chew the leaves of the tree or brew it after drying, to drink as a tea. The leaves can be smoked or eaten in foods as well. The most common reasons people take kratom are for opiate withdrawal symptoms, cough, hypertension, diabetes, diarrhea, pain, depression and anxiety, although there is no scientific evidence to support the substance works for these conditions.
How Does Kratom Effect the Human Brain?
The effects of kratom are similar to both stimulants and opiates. Mitragynine and 7-a-hydroxymitragynine, two compounds in kratom leaves, effect the opiate receptors in the brain and produce pleasure, sedation and alleviate pain. Mitragynine also interacts with other receptors in the brain to produce stimulant effects. When the substance is taken in small amounts, users report increased energy, sociability and increased alertness. However, when taken in larger amounts, kratom can act as an opiate and provide pain relief.
Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Puts Kratom on Schedule I List:
In September 2016, the United States Food and Drug Administration announced they will ban kratom by placing it on the Schedule I list which says, “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” the most restrictive class under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. The move to ban kratom by the DEA has been met with backlash and petitions. Big pharma is seeking to have the dug banned because it could have amazing benefits for the opiate-addicted population.
Yes, it’s true the Centers for Disease Control has reported kratom can be abused and poison control centers have received more than 660 calls between 2010 and 2015, regarding kratom intoxication. However, when you consider the number of opiate overdose deaths reported each year and the fact there’s no conclusive research which proves kratom to be deadly, the numbers pale in comparison.
As the opiate epidemic ravages the country and kills thousands every year, big pharma is searching to find a solution and that could be kratom. However, because kratom is a tree that anybody can grow it, big pharma can’t profit from it. While the media often reports on drug companies making big profits from pricey medications, they conveniently don’t mention the reason is that the government allows it.
Does Kratom Have Medical Value?
In recent years, people have used kratom as a herbal supplement in place of traditional medical treatments in order to control cravings and withdrawal from opiate dependence. There is no scientific evidence that kratom has any medical value, but more studies should be done to determine if this is entirely true. Even though the efficacy of kratom may be in question, it’s clear it is being used extensively and it could have therapeutic value.
Growing Kratom Use in the United States:
In spite of having a long history of use in Southeast Asia, kratom has only recently started receiving attention and is being used as a herbal remedy in America. The emergence of kratom as a product or drug in the United States is evident from the results of a literature search done by The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed database listed 35 articles and reviews about kratom in February 2012. Another PubMed search more recently using the term “Mitragyna speciosa,” yielded 65 published articles with 75% being published within the past decade.
Increased Internet Searchers for Kratom Information:
In February 2012, the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association also conducted an internet search using Google. A search using “kratom,” as the keyword found more than 2 million results. Of the first 100 sites listed in the results, 78 were focused on kratom sales and 22 sites focused on information dissemination about kratom through using discussion boards. The organization strongly emphasizes the scientific value of any claims and anecdotes on these websites has not been substantiated.
The review found three websites to be especially informative and these include www.Erowid.org, www.Sagewisdom.org and www.WebMD.com. These particular websites contain a variety of information about kratoms uses and effects, discussion about an individual’s personal use and adverse reactions when using it. It is important to note the information provided on these websites shows kratom is being used for medical purposes.
Currently, there’s a petition on www.change.org to stop the Big Pharma from banning kratom supplements. Why would so many states run to ban kratom when it’s less deadly than synthetic opiates? The hole left by cannabis is quickly being replenished by a newly banned kratom. Right now, kratom is one of the few plants, like cannabis, that has inspired its own movement to keep it legal.
Right now, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Vermont, Illinois, Wisconsin and Louisiana have banned the active ingredients in kratom, with the supplement is totally banned in Illinois and Louisiana.
In light of President Trump approving the groundbreaking “right to try” legislation that allows terminally ill people to explore unapproved medical treatment, kratom advocates are hopeful. In light of this development researchers and supporters of kratom were optimistic for increased support for a study of the herb for use in treating opiate withdrawal symptoms, mood disorders and pain management. Instead of approving the herb, the FDA has spoken out against the supplement, totally ignoring a history of safe use and over dramatizing safety concerns.
The Food and Drug Administration should consider how kratom fits into the current theme in Washington to allow for creative approaches for pain management and opiate addiction. As of right now, current research and epidemiological studies regarding kratom are increasing in the United States. It’s in the best interest of the public for the FDA to regulate kratom products that permit ongoing access to it, but with oversight as is provided for all other dietary supplements to ensure it is safe.