Photo by Ninoninos.

How Kratom Could Help Combat America’s Opiate Addiction Disaster

Photo by Ninoninos.

 
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by Aaron Kase

on April 23, 2015

Sometimes, solutions to even the most entrenched public health crises are right in front of our eyes, growing naturally from Mother Earth.

Richard Smith* struggled with an opiate painkiller addiction for four years before he found a way out through something called kratom.

“It works amazingly well,” Smith said. “I’m surprised it isn’t being prescribed as a treatment by doctors.”

Kratom comes from a tree, Mitragyna speciosa, that grows in Southeast Asia. The leaves have long been taken as medicine by people living in its native jungles, but the remedy is now growing in popularity around the world. Leaves can be chewed fresh, or dried and consumed in powder, tea or bar form. In small doses, it can have stimulative effects, but in larger quantities it acts as a sedative.

Kratom has been used as an aphrodisiac, painkiller, appetite suppressant and for diarrhea relief. Its most promising effect, however, is in weaning people off heroin and morphine addiction using chemicals that stimulate opiate receptors, reducing the brain’s cravings for the genuine article.

Smith got hooked on painkillers after undergoing surgery for an injury he suffered in the military.

“I was prescribed the medication by a doctor for three or four years,” he said. He tried quitting cold turkey, and by replacing the opiates with alcohol, but nothing worked.

That’s when he heard about kratom. The idea appealed to him more than checking into rehab to go onto methadone or suboxone, so he purchased some from a local natural products store and gave it a shot. He took the kratom for two or three months and was able to leave behind his addiction completely, without experiencing the crippling symptoms that usually accompany opiate withdrawal.

“I was able to go to work, take care of my family,” Smith said.

Awareness of the kratom’s therapeutic properties seems to be growing. “If you want to treat depression, if you want to treat opioid pain, if you want to treat sleepiness, this [compound] really puts it all together,” Edward Boyer, a professor of emergency medicine and director of medical toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said to Scientific American.

Side effects are minimal, including nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth and increased urination. Kratom can be addictive, according to reports, but a 2011 study by the International Drug Policy Consortium and Transnational Institute found that withdrawal symptoms were weak and nearly inconsequential compared to the suffering of people trying to quit opiates or amphetamines.

“I’ve heard there are withdrawal symptoms from kratom itself, but I didn’t experience that,” Smith said. “At least in comparison in trying to wean myself off narcotics for pain.”

The public profile of kratom is thriving, at least online. Reddit has over 5,000 members on its kratom forum that discuss its effects and how to acquire it.

Vocativ described it as the “sleeper-hit wonder drug that’s as schizophrenic as the Internet that spawned it” and called for 2015 to be “the year of kratom.” The site surveyed internet reviews and concluded that the substance could cause you to have the best or worst sex of your life, would make you feel amazing or terrible, gain superhuman strength or suffer crippling weakness, and might make you poop weird.

Another kratom enthusiast, Brandon Bird, who buys in bulk from Indonesia and resells it under the name Snake Oil Peddlers, spoke to Reset last year about how kratom helps him manage his PTSD and allowed him to quit taking prescription painkillers.

It hasn’t gotten on the bad side of America’s drug warriors yet, so kratom remains unregulated and unlisted under the Controlled Substances Act, although the Drug Enforcement Agency has ominously and inaccurately claimed that it has “no legitimate medical use.

However, its active chemicals, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, were banned in Indiana in 2012, and Tennessee followed suit in 2013.

Restrictions in other states and localities are under consideration. Lawmakers in Arizona tried to ban kratom last year, but the bill failed to pass. And Palm Beach County in Florida mulled over forcing vendors to post signs warning of its addictive properties, but recently decided against moving forward with the measure.

Internationally, kratom is illegal in Thailand, Australia, Myanmar and Malaysia, although Thailand has reportedly been considering dropping the ban.

When governments think about banning a substance or smearing it as a drug, it’s important to consider the evidence and harm reduction potential. With opiate addiction a growing problem in the United States, kratom is one therapy that can help people get their lives back on track. “Painkillers are an addiction that a lot of people are dealing with,” Smith said. “I think it’s important that people are aware that this is an option. It worked for me.”

Per request, one or more names have been changed for this article to protect the source’s identity. 

  • http://www.kratomhelps.org Kratom Helps

    Hi everyone,

    We’re doing an open casting call for an online commercial about Kratom. This project will cast several individuals to talk about how Kratom has helped them and improve their lives. If anyone reading feels they have a similiar story to “Richard Smith” we would love to hear about it. You can go to http://www.kratomhelps.org/casting-call.html for more information. Thanks in advance for helping us keep Kratom legal!

    Please help us by following us on Twitter or Facebook and re-tweeting or re-posting this announcement.

    Twitter: @kratomhelps
    Facebook: kratomhelps

  • Mary Heantos

    Hello!

    Kratom is great – we use it as one of many possible supplements during our Heantos opioid/heroin detoxes. Heantos is this effective, new remedy that was developed into standardized pills over a decade by the government of Vietnam. As of October, 2014, is now finally available in the United States. This is an herbal drug detoxification treatment that is scientifically developed and proven effective in three countries, so far. Heantos detoxifies using all natural ingredients, while stimulating dopamine in the brain, and relieving withdrawal symptoms, particularly pain and insomnia. It also plays a huge role in eliminating cravings and urges that often lead to relapse. It gently ends dependency within 5-10 days. It reduces cravings and withdrawals by 70% to 80% by putting you to sleep through your detox. This is what makes Heantos peerless as an addiction treatment. It allows for the recovery process to begin immediately. With Heantos, addicts no longer have to suffer through cold turkey withdrawals.

    I’m a Heantos detox support specialist trained in harm reduction, behavioral therapies, somatics, and evidence-based, complementary modalities. I have studied complementary therapeutic herbalism and plant medicines. I provide Heantos home detoxes in the San Francisco Bay Area, plus detox support anywhere via Skype or phone.

    I published a Kindle ebook on Amazon! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TL4FG00

    Send me an email and I’ll send my book to you for free as a PDF. Please forward it to friends in need! It’s a solid overview and answers to basic questions. With this book, I hereby take a stand for bringing comfortable detoxification to as many people as I can in my lifetime.

    We at http://www.sanfranciscoheantos.org are happy to be part of a growing addiction treatment team of support specialist providers at http://www.heantos.org and in other countries, guiding detoxes either in folks’ own homes, or even via Skype and phone. We are available to folks for the rest of their lifetimes, should they need us.

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    Take care!
    Mary Anderson Ayers
    aka Mary Heantos

    http://www.sanfranciscoheantos.org
    heantos.sanfrancisco@gmail.com
    1-650-825-5135
    4023 18th Street
    San Francisco, CA 94114

    “What would your life look like if you were free from the suffering of addiction?”

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/United-States-Kratom-United/1033017630043331?ref=bookmarks Kelly Devine

    I have been using kratom nearly a yr now I am off 13 Rx and my chronic pain is better managed with kratom than fenyntal or oxy’s ever did, I’m not doped up now and have a life, thank you for your article! Please visit us at USKU!

    https://www.facebook.com/United-States-Kratom-United-1033017630043331/

  • Susan W

    While on a trip I had thrown my back out so badly that you could see a bump through my shirt where my vertebrae was sticking out. I was in so much debilitating pain I can barely move. Changing positions from sitting to standing and vice versa gave me excruciating pain. This led to overwhelming fear, helplessness and obsessive angry thoughts which made it difficult to make clear decisions which only worsened the whole situation. My friend whose son had been severely injured in a car wreck and airlifted to hospital where they put 8 staples in his head told me about kratom and how it helped tremendously with his healing and recovery (they wanted to avoid opiates and morphine due to his earlier struggle with addiction in high school). It gave me immediate relief and helped me get further treatment. I was able to get acupressure and deep tissue massages and adjustments. I used no prescrip drugs and had no unwanted side effects. I used it 4-5 days. It was a lifesaver even in the short term. I am so glad I found out about this miracle plant – gift from Gaia. BTW I wish I’d known about it from the age of 14 because it is the perfect antidote for all the issues associated with menstrual cramps.