Kratom is an herbal supplement that's become popular in recent years in the United States. Kratom users say taking capsules of the powdered herb helps with social anxiety, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. On Tuesday, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced that it intends to place two of kratom's psychoactive chemicals into its list of Schedule I controlled substances, on temporary basis, citing the necessity "to
avoid an imminent hazard to public safety."
According to the DEA, substances in Schedule I "are those that have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision."
From the DEA's announcement:
Evidence from poison control centers in the United States also shows that there is an
increase in the number of individuals abusing kratom, which contains the main active
alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. As such, there has been a steady
increase in the reporting of kratom exposures by poison control centers. The American
Association of Poison Control Centers identified two exposures to kratom between 2000
and 2005. Additionally, the Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN), which is comprised
of six poison centers that service the State of Texas, reported 14 exposures to kratom
between January 2009 and September 2013. Between January 2010 and December 2015
U.S. poison centers received 660 calls related to kratom exposure. During this time, there
was a tenfold increase in the number of calls received, from 26 in 2010 to 263 in 2015.
From STAT News:
"It's a very tragic day," said Susan Ash, the founder and director of the American Kratom Association, an advocacy group that works to keep the substance legal.
The issue is more than just work-related for Ash, who used kratom to wean herself off opiates to treat the chronic pain she attributes to Lyme disease. She still takes kratom every day to help control her pain.
"This just ripped my quality of life right out from under me," she said. "This is the plant that returned me to being a productive member of society, and I truly fear for my future, and I fear for all of the people who found kratom to be a solution for them to get off things like heroin. I foresee a large jump in the already epidemic proportions of opiate deaths in this country."
Ash and other kratom advocates insist that the substance is no more addictive than coffee, and that as long as it is unadulterated, it is safe for adults to consume. They claim that it is impossible to overdose because consuming too much kratom will make you throw up.
Emergency room doctors and toxicologists, on the other hand, have seen kratom interact negatively with other drugs. In the most extreme cases, seizures have been reported.