There is ongoing controversy in our country related to kratom and drug addiction.
Kratom is a tropical evergreen tree that is in the coffee family, native to countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea. The plant has been used by the population there for centuries for its medicinal and stimulant properties. In Asia the leaves of the tree are chewed to produce analgesic and euphoric effects that help field workers keep their stamina through the long hot days of work. Kratom is seen as a traditional medicine in Malaysia and Thailand where it is used for many ailments including intestinal infections, diarrhea, and cough.
In the United States, kratom is sold at head shops, gas stations, and online. While the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been waging a war on the herbal supplement, millions of people say kratom has changed their lives for the better by helping them to discontinue opioid use by decreasing withdrawal and chronic pain symptoms as well as alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The FDA cites kratom’s addiction potential as a reason to schedule the plant. However, the substance found in the U.S., a fine powder that tastes like dirt, has low abuse potential as people do not get “high” from it. Kratom gives energy and alleviates many ailments including depression and anxiety without causing the user to feel mentally altered.
Mental alteration is the point of drugs of abuse. kratom does not fit the bill which is why it is still mainly used in the U.S., as it has been for centuries in Asia, as an herbal medicinal remedy.
The United States is not the only country to want to outlaw kratom. Thailand heavily taxed opium after the last opium war to increase their profits which left the majority of the population who used the drug to no longer be able to afford it. Those people turned to kratom since the plant is a naturally occurring tree and so it was easily available and effectively alleviated withdrawal from the now too expensive opium. The Thai government did not like losing that revenue and outlawed kratom.
Is that what is going on in the United States? Big pharma is afraid of losing revenue. Why else would they prefer to treat opioid addiction with other expensive, addictive drugs — like switching seats on the sinking Titanic — rather than promote more natural, less expensive treatments like kratom? How is it that pharmaceutical companies have already begun trying to patent the active alkaloids in kratom while the FDA tries to make it unavailable to the public?
These are a few of the questions that come to mind when looking deeply into the evidence regarding kratom. There are too many benefits and too many people reporting the same benefits to be ignored. While not everyone is going to have positive effects from using kratom it is not a dangerous substance. It parallels caffeine in addiction potential and is available to people who cannot afford the expensive opioid addiction substitute maintenance programs.
This herbal cousin to coffee could continue being helpful to people recovering from heroin addictions and other dangerous opioids. Since our country is in an “opioid crisis” which we see signs of more and more in Enumclaw, it seems like it would be more beneficial to keep kratom legal so there is equal access to something that can be used to save lives.