Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) Mitragynine photo

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) Mitragynine.

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

Kratom, an ancient Southeast Asian herb used for reducing pain, increasing energy, and withdrawing from opioids is currently undergoing threats of being banned by individual states, adding to the seven states that have already banned it. 

Prior to this, kratom users survived a national threat of being classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the DEA in 2016, which would make it illegal to have and use under any circumstances. 

Kratom’s use originated in Southeast Asia centuries ago. It helped addicts get off opium and helped bolster energy and attitude while maintaining alertness for those traveling through or exploring dense jungle environments under hot, humid conditions.

Since then, there have been governmental controversies surrounding kratom’s use despite testimonies of its safe usefulness by many. Some nations have restricted or banned its use.

The state-by-state threats of banning kratom are a result of FDA and media reports of deaths among kratom users that have shown to be inaccurate and misleading. 

Kratom advocates maintain that kratom’s benefits far outweigh its perceived harms. And they are campaigning to keep pure kratom products available for self-medicating while avoiding opioid drugs.

Where It Is Still Legal, Where Its Legality is Threatened, and Where It Is Illegal 

Kratom users report it increases energy and alertness during stressful situations or works as a mild performance enhancer. It also reduces pain and has been successful in assisting addiction withdrawals from legal and illegal dangerous drugs, including alcohol.

It’s estimated that there are four to five million people in the USA who use kratom for various reasons, which include overcoming depression, eliminating anxiety, reducing chronic pain, reducing PTSD, increasing energy, and maintaining alertness during long periods of work.

Bodybuilders and others who work out strenuously use it to enhance their workout and feel refreshed afterward. But using kratom at higher doses to help reduce pain or the agony of withdrawal from legally prescribed opioid pain killer addiction has been popularized the most.

The two natural active compounds found in kratom leaves, which are usually dried, ground, and sold bulk or in capsules, are mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine. Whenever you see those drugs listed on a restricting legislative bill or mandate, it’s referring to kratom. 

The following states have completely banned kratom sales and use:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • District of Columbia
  • Indiana
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin 

There are some counties or towns that don’t allow kratom sales or use in states that allow it. They are San Diego County (CA), Sarasota, Florida, and Jerseyville, Illinois. 

Some states, counties, and towns that allow kratom distribution and use may have restrictions that usually involve not selling it to anyone under 18. The penalties to enforce that age requirement usually fall under the misdemeanor category.

Others require warnings on kratom packages that recommend not using it, not using it with certain health conditions, not mixing it with alcohol or other prescription drugs, or only using it with a doctor’s approval.

A couple of states that had banned it amended the ban to allow kratom sales to those over 18 with the FDA warning labels intact. There is a very well thought out national graphic and hyperlinked listing of all the states and their positions with kratom. You can access this up-to-date information here. Also see:

Kratom: Why is the FDA Banning this Herb that Helps Break Addiction to Opioid Drug Addicts?

Kratom Has Survived the FDA/DEA Push to Ban It; Now It’s Dealing With State Politicians and Local Media Outlets

The kratom community circled their wagons with the non-profit American Kratom Association (AKA) and successfully defended kratom’s legitimacy as a botanical useful for human health against the FDA and DEA collusion to schedule kratom as a Schedule 1 drug. That was 2016.

To handle the current state-by-state ban threats, some of which are in place, the AKA has implemented a preemptive strategy of convincing state governments to create a “Kratom Protection Act” and ratify the act into law.

This requires educating state legislators and policymakers about the scientific reality of kratom to the level of understanding that precipitates regulating kratom to ensure purity instead of banning all kratom products. 

The 2016 resistance to kratom’s banning inspired the AKA to raise funds and lobby individual state government officials and elected politicians as some states were considering enacting their own Schedule I assessment of kratom through legislation. 

Using donations from kratom users and membership fees, the AKA established a strategy of educating state government officials to the reality of kratom’s benefits and the gross exaggerations of its dangers. 

Mac Hadow became their chief lobbyist and spokesperson. He has the ability to understand the scientific aspects of kratom and communicate them in a manner that’s easily understood by laypersons.

He spoke in an online webinar earlier this year, 2019, and explained the FDA’s false report approach. FDA director at the time, Scott Gottlieb, announced that kratom was responsible for 44 deaths. 

Hadow uses a slide demo to show that half of those deaths were not in this country, but worldwide. Some who died with kratom in their systems been fatally shot or committed suicide by hanging or jumping out of high buildings. 

Most of the toxicology reports indicated several other chemicals were isolated among the victims.

Then Hadow goes on to show slides of testimonies from scientists that counter those who blindly repeat the misinformation that kratom is an opiate. Mac pointed to a renowned pharmacologist, Jack Henningfield, PhD, who declared kratom is not an opioid.

Testing has determined that even high doses of kratom do not impair breathing. Yet, there are still some kratom use opponents who declare it does impair breathing the same way opioids and heroin do.

Suffocation from not being able to breath is how heroin and opioid users die from overdosing. 

The inaccurate association is made because kratom’s active molecules visit opiate receptors. But that’s not unusual. Endomorphines created from exercise or stimulated by pleasurable activities visit there too. 

Many of the other chemicals found in almost all of the rest of the 44 victims are also toxic by themselves and dangerous if mixed with kratom. After a slow introduction, it turns into an impressively convincing slide presentation. You can view it entirely here.

The FDA had worse than a weak case. It contained a lot of misleading information and falsely reported the relevance of 43 of the 44 claimed victims of kratom overdosing badly. This made the outcry from the AKA and kratom community to get the FDA and DEA to back off nationally easier.

Still, the FDA continues to fan the flames of kratom dangers enough to get some state legislators riled up to create bills that would ban kratom. Local media outlets help the FDA spread its fear-based propaganda.

It’s not known whether there’s any pharmaceutical industry influence in these state kratom political adventures to legislate against kratom’s use.

But Gottlieb was a Big Pharma insider before he was appointed to run the FDA. Many opposed his selection because of that. And it’s obvious that Big Pharma stands to lose revenue from opioid type pain killers if kratom can replace them.

The Reality of Kratom: Benefits Far Outweigh the Risks

University of Florida pharmacologist Oliver Grundmann, PhD, conducted a survey of thousands of kratom users and discovered only a third used kratom for opioid addiction prevention or recovery, while the other two-thirds reported using it for chronic pain and emotional or mental stress. (Source)

Most who were using kratom for pain issues to avoid opioid addiction were getting good results with five-gram doses. 

Professor of pharmacology at Midwestern University Walter C. Prozialeck explained in a HuffPost interview:

After researching the literature, I found that were more positive aspects to kratom than there were negative. Additional studies are needed to explore potential benefits of kratom.

With anything, there are dangers of using too much. But the amount that a person has to take in to get any severe effects is ridiculously high. You’re talking 10 to 15 grams of raw leaf. Most people who are using kratom for pain management don’t take that much. Most people can’t take that much.

I would respectfully disagree with the idea that kratom poses as much risk as other opiates. I think kratom is probably less dangerous in terms of long-term dependence and addiction. People who turn to kratom are probably desperate for an alternative. (Source)

The AKA supports a minimum age of 18 for kratom consumers and encourages regulatory oversight to keep kratom products pure. Many sold are mixed with other items that are risky, and the AKA considers those impure kratom products as the larger source of adverse events of any kind. 

The AKA can be a source of information that helps locate the pure kratom and warn of the adulterated products that could be harmful. Here’s the American Kratom Association site.

And here’s a video on the kratom issue.