Prescription opioid overdoses kill 18,893 people in the US each year. In a bizarre and shocking move, the DEA will ban the plant Kratom, one of the safest, most promising natural alternatives to prescription opiods.
In what is arguably the biggest setback in the movement to end the failed War on Drugs in recent history, the DEA announced an impending two-year ban on the natural plant Kratom. This plant may be the brightest hope for a solution to the current epidemic of opioid overdoses in America.
Between 26.4 million and 36 million people around the world abuse opioid drugs. Opioid overdoses have increased by 200 percent since 2000, with opioids causing the deaths of more than 28,000 people in the U.S. alone in 2014. Prescription opiod drugs account for at least 18,893 deaths in the US each year.
Kratom, a medicine derived from the Southeast Asian Mitragyna speciosa tree, has shown great promise as a potentially safer alternative to prescription opioids like morphine, methadone, oxycodone and hydrocodone. In contrast to such medications, kratom has never caused a single overdose death when used on its own. According to physicians like Dr. Ed Boyer, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, it is approximately as effective as morphine in dulling pain.
In a shocking and bizarre move, the DEA announced that starting on September 30th, this plant will be classified as a Schedule I controlled substance—a category reserved for drugs that have no medical value, present a high risk of abuse and are unsafe for use under medical supervision. This ban, which the DEA is instituting without allowing any period of input from independent scientists or concerned citizens, comes as devastating news to many thousands of people who rely on kratom for relief from chronic pain, not to mention those who are using this medicine to help wean themselves off of heroin, morphine or alcohol—purposes for which the plant has been used in Southeast Asia for centuries.
In classifying kratom as a Schedule I drug, the DEA is disregarding a mounting number of studies indicating that this plant may be the next big hope where painkillers are concerned. Because the chemicals in kratom reduce drug cravings by stimulating opiate receptors, this medicine may also be useful in breaking addiction to heroin and other opioids. Unlike opiates, withdrawal symptoms associated with kratom are “generally nonexistent to mild, even for heavy users,” according to the authors of a study published in the International Journal of Legal Medicine in 2015.
Such research is part of a long list of studies that clearly refute the notion that kratom has no medicinal value. Schedule I classification will make it difficult to continue exploring this plant’s potential as a healing agent through scientific trials.
Innumerable kratom users have testified to the curative properties of kratom, which has also been used to treat clinical anxiety and depression, PTSD, high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues such as heart attacks and heart disease, hay fever, diarrhea and other ailments. Kratom is also rich in alkaloids that help strengthen the immune system.
In its explanation of the ban, the DEA claims that kratom poses “an imminent hazard to public safety,” pointing to a recent CDC study that reported 660 kratom-related calls to poison control centers between 2010 and 2015. But an average of 132 calls per year for kratom is incredibly meager compared to the nearly 100,000 calls poison control centers nationwide receive each year for acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol). Kratom enthusiasts say the plant is a worthy replacement for chemical painkillers such as acetaminophen.
Interestingly, two-thirds of the Kratom calls to poison control centers were described as “minor” or “moderate,” with only 7 percent qualifying as life-threatening. Several cases listed as “kratom intoxication” involved the use of illicit drugs in combination with the plant. According to a 2014 article that appeared in the journal Pharmacotherapy, “Serious [kratom] toxicity is rare and usually involves relatively high doses [more than 15 g] or coingestants.”
Without exception, the small amount of instances in which kratom has been linked to fatality have involved the use of the plant in combination with more dangerous drugs. The 2014 Pharmacotherapy study stated, “Fatalities typically involve coingestants,” while the authors of the aforementioned International Journal of Legal Medicine study concluded, “there is no solid evidence that kratom was the sole contributor to an individual’s death.”
These statements are especially noteworthy when one compares the number of deaths that have been linked to kratom with the amount of deaths associated to other intoxicants, both legal and illegal. For instance, the large quantity of acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol)-related deaths, 28,647 heroin/opioid-related deaths, and 2,560,290 alcohol-related deaths reported annually in the U.S. indicates that banning kratom may cause more harm than good, especially considering that kratom is one of the only viable alternatives to both opiates and acetaminophen.
To further put in perspective the 660 kratom-related calls that poison control centers have received over a five-year period, Forbes has pointed out that nearly 300,000 poison control center calls in 2014 alone were related to the use of analgesics, while cleaning solutions, personal care products, cosmetics, antidepressants and antihistamines were each the catalyst for more than 100,000 calls. The same publication, which has referred to the DEA’s decision to classify kratom as a Schedule I drug as a “crazy ban” that “dresses pharmacological phobia in scientific garb,” has noted that in just the first seven months of 2016, there were 6,843 reported incidents of children swallowing laundry detergent.
Personal testimonials from kratom users recently helped persuade the North Carolina state legislature to amend a bill that would have outlawed the medicine. Instead, use of the plant within the state will be restricted to people 18 and over.
If the DEA’s decision is not based on facts or science, one might ask who would benefit from making Kratom illegal? The DEA’s decision may be influenced by the pharmaceutical opioid industry in fear of the efficacy of this powerful plant. Kratom is known for helping those addicted to prescription opioids wean off the chemical medicines with little to no withdrawal symptoms. Those who take the plant also say it’s ability to dull pain is just as strong as the prescription drugs without all the harmful side effects. A legal Kratom could cost the pharmaceutical painkiller industry billions in lost sales.
The Reset staff is outraged that the DEA is denying thousands of suffering people this all-natural remedy while allowing 11-year-olds access to extremely dangerous drugs like OxyContin. We urge concerned readers to help reverse the decision by signing this White House petition. You can also get involved by taking part in a march on the White House scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 13, or by contacting your State Congressman and/or Senator.
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