The DEA has announced the scheduling of Kratom, a southeast Asian plant used extensively in traditional medicine, to Schedule 1 beginning 30 September. According to the DEA website, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Curiously, the cannabis plant and its active component, THC, are also Schedule 1 substances despite mounting evidence of it’s medical benefits and little evidence of long-term harm caused by use. Cannabis has recently undergone a renaissance in legal stature, however, being made legal both medicinally and recreationally in several by several State governments.
The problem faced by advocates of cannabis use is the same, however, is the same Kratom advocates are faced with due to DEA scheduling. Under Schedule 1 status, it becomes incredibly hard to conduct the sort of peer-reviewed studies that organizations like the FDA require to issue permits for clinical trials and eventual availability to the public.
Kratom, a plant native to Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, has long been used in traditional medicine. Advocates claim the substance has great potential to mitigate the effects of opioid addiction and in the treatment of chronic pain, which is typically treated now with opioid drugs like Oxycodone. Patrick Ryan of Free Radical Media discusses these these topics:
Mitragyna Speciosa, otherwise known as “Kratom” is a superb plant ally that promotes feelings of calm along with heightened senses and a tremendously higher tolerance to pain. Kratom can be used to catalyze creativity, enhance social fluidity, and strengthen the attention span. Relative to alcohol, Kratom has much less severe effect profile and allows the user to live and operate in normal society with very little drawbacks besides slight drowsiness. It’s greatest glory though, seems to be in it’s tremendous ability to alleviate opiate cravings among recovering addicts. Numerous people suffering from opiate addictions have used kratom to miraculous benefit in completely stopping their habit with deadly opiates such as heroin with very little drawbacks.
Another anecdotal opinion comes from a prominent member of Soldiers for Change in the following video:
While there are few enough clinical studies of the effects of Kratom, these filed patents for the substance notwithstanding, there is certainly evidence that to support conducting more trials and very little to suggest that the plant has “no medical use.” The plant has shown very little potential for danger, as well. Between 2010 and 2015, the CDC reports only 660 calls for possible Kratom “poisoning,” none of which lead to death and some of which were later found to be the result of other substances. By contrast, the CDC also reports that some 80,000 deaths a years are caused by alcohol, a substance that is perfectly legal and widely available.
Perhaps a more salient point, however, is the relationship between the scheduling of Kratom and the opiate industry. If this substance does indeed have the ability to mitigate and assist in the process of opiate withdrawal, and if it can indeed treat chronic pain without the negative side effects of opioid drugs, then this causes a clear problem for the massive opiate industry.
Just one company, Purdue, has made over $31 Billion in profits during the the 20-year history of just one opioid drug, OxyContin. Much has already been written about the relationship between Big Pharma and the heroin and opioid epidemic in the United States (for example, see this piece in Alternet) but the fact remains that opiates are still widely prescribed and certainly lead to severe dependence and death from overdose. A sane reaction to this epidemic would be to explore other options in the treatment of chronic pain like Kratom and cannabis, and in the case of Kratom, explore its potential to aid opiate addicts in recovery.
So why is Kratom being listed as a Schedule 1 drug, rather then being studied?
The scheduling of Kratom is nothing more than government protection of an industry that spends millions each year to lobby politicians in Washington. Whether or not Kratom has the tremendous medicinal value that many claim, we won’t ever know if Big Pharma and the FDA, DEA, and other regulatory agencies continue to restrict the scientific pursuit of truth in the matter, and continue, indeed, to limit the ability of individuals to choose their own mode of treatment. Kratom has shown a very low risk profile in terms of health or societal danger, and the DEA should not be in the business of protecting Big Pharma.
You can sign a petition to stop the scheduling of Kratom here.
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