Kratom has long been used in Southeast Asia for thousands of years for its many health benefits. It was culturally woven and touted as a traditional remedy before its criminalization in 1943 due to opium prices skyrocketing and the government trying to control the market. Just recently the governemnt in Thailand removed the ban on Kratom and is allowing the sale and consumption of it A plant in the coffee family (Rubiaceae), Kratom has helped in pain relief and as a mild stimulant. Millions of Americans use Kratom as well, making many claims, of which chronic pain and addiction relief are just to name a few. With the CDC’s restrictions on legitimate opioid prescriptions, some with chronic pain are left with few options. Some options could be worse than the prescription, like illicit opioids or even in extreme cases suicide. However, many have relied on Kratom to fill a much needed void in the U.S.
Some details on Kratom.
Kratoms effects vary. If you take a low dose, it can produce a mild stimulant effect. For instance, in places like Malaysia people chew Kratom leaves to stay focused, just like we in the states drink coffee or tea to stay alert. Now if you take a higher dose, depending on the kind of Kratom, it acts as a pain reliever or a sedative. This part of kratom isn’t entirely understood, but what we do know is that kratom’s active ingredients, 7-hydroxymitragynine and mitragynine, do some very interesting things. For example, based on limited but thorough lab studies scientist have found that both of those ingredients somehow bind to what’s called the mu-opioid receptor, the receptor that also binds things like morphine and other opioids.
The mu-opioid receptor causes different effects when it binds to different molecules, through an amazing process called biased-agonism. This allows opioids and mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine to have different physical effects. How is this great? Well opioids activate a protein called beta-arrestin, which has been linked to dangerous side effects of opioids such as slowed, shallow breathing, that could lead to death. However, the ingredients in Kratom do not activate beta-arrestin. But you probably won’t hear that from the DEA or FDA.
Where does Kratom stand as of now?
As it stands the DEA and FDA have not been able to impose a ban on Kratom in the U.S. The FDA may however make a recommendation to the WHO (World Health Organization) that Kratom be banned internationally. If that were to happen millions of people not just in the U.S but across the world will be negatively impacted. There are countless testimonials from Americans who claim Kratom reduces opioid cravings, meaning they don’t have to go purchase some illicit drug that many times is laced with extremely dangerous fentanyl. CDC themselves have stated that synthetic opioids are the main driver of drug overdose death. Imagine banning the plant that reduces that, what good would that do? Prohibition also prevents valuable studies of Kratom effects to be conducted by researchers. What may prove to be a better option is that the FDA regulate Kratom. That would at least give way to industry safety standards and procedures. There are many conspiracy theories out there as to why certain governing bodies want to ban Kratom, big pharma being the main one. We hope that Kratom can one day be purchased at your local vitamin or health food store, but till then we’ll keep enjoying the plethora of health benefits this great plant provides.