The Legal Kratom Timeline
For centuries, native populations in Southeast Asia have relied on a natural ethnobotanical substance known as kratom. This substance, derived from the leaves of a tree closely related to coffee, has been used as a health remedy to combat fatigue, reduce anxiety, and to control pain. In the United States, kratom use has skyrocketed, with millions of users reporting significant health benefits from using the substance, says Sebastian Guthery.
What is Kratom?
Kratom is the name for the powdered leaves of the Mitrgyna speciosa tree, a tropical evergreen related to coffee. It is indigenous to several Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea. The plant contains two powerful chemical compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. The kratom leaves are powdered and taken orally or made into a tea-like preparation. This ethnobotanical has both analgesic and stimulant properties, depending on dosage. In lower doses, kratom produces stimulant effects and has been used to reduce fatigue and to provide mental focus. In higher doses, the analgesic effects take over, with an effect similar to opioids. Kratom can be used therapeutically as well as recreationally.
Kratom can be used to treat the symptoms of opioid addiction and serves as a natural alternative to potentially dangerous pharmaceutical painkillers. While there is a lack of solid scientific research behind the properties and uses of kratom, the medical community supports investigation of the substance has a health-supporting alternative to prescription drugs.
Rising Numbers of Kratom Users
Kratom began to be imported into the United States in the early 2000s. Since those early days, use numbers have increased exponentially. An industry analysis suggests that there may be more than five million users in the U.S. alone; millions more enjoy the health benefits and recreational effects in kratom’s homelands.
Despite efforts on the state and federal levels to regulate kratom, consumer acceptance of the natural plant substance is expected to rise in the years to come. More and more people are discovering the potential health benefits this substance provides. Even in the medical community, strong vocal advocates are pushing for increased research, believing that kratom holds the keys to reducing the so-called opioid epidemic in the U.S.
Pushback Against Kratom
In August 206, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that it would temporarily place kratom in its Schedule 1 drug classification, a classification shared by marijuana, heroin, and LSD. This classification is given to substances with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical application. A public commenting period was opened prior to the reclassification of kratom, and the DEA was surprised at the turnout of commenters. The overwhelming number of commenters were against such classification; commenters included members of Congress, respected medical professionals, and thousands of users who depend on kratom’s effects to support their health.
In the face of such incredible pushback, the DEA withdrew its proposal. On the state level, however, efforts to enact bans have been successful, particularly in states like Vermont, Tennessee, Alabama, and the District of Columbia. Several other states are exploring kratom bans.
Regardless of the current legal status of kratom, it is clear that millions of supporters hail the natural plant substance as a miracle, helping them to lead pain-free and productive lives without the potentially fatal side effects of prescription drugs. More study is needed to unlock the full potential of kratom – study that is supported by the medical community and by industry advocates alike.