Kratom is legal by default in the U.S. It isn’t classified or listed as a controlled substance and is sold — usually crushed and dried and special “kratom bars” —in general stores scattered across the country. It produces a euphoric “high” and said to mitigate the effects of opiate withdrawal.
Despite calls for a ban, passionate arguments on both sides of the issue are being heard by legislators in state governments. You can still buy kratom online and in certain shops today, but many people are wondering: Does kratom do more to harm or help its users?
Why the FDA Banned Kratom
Except for some states that are considering a possible ban on all kratom products, kratom is legal in most parts of the U.S. This means anyone can buy, sell or possess it without the fear of getting arrested. It also means that you don’t need a prescription to purchase it.
However, the FDA currently and clearly prohibits the sale of kratom products as a health product because of its alkaloid content, but it can be sold as a research compound. This restriction also implies that a supplier cannot market it as a health supplement.
Kratom has become increasingly popular in the natural health market and is used as an additive in natural pain medication and dietary aids. It’s also been utilized in drug addiction recovery — though it’s now cited as an addictive substance itself.
Without reliable studies on the safety of the drug combined with a booming import market, in 2014 the FDA issued an alert for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to confiscate any shipments that might contain the additive. The DEA reports that street names for kratom include thang, kakuam, thom, ketum and biak.
In January 2016, the U.S. Marshals seized $400,000 worth of dietary supplements from Illinois-based Dordoniz Natural Products that contained the controversial kratom, at the request of the FDA. Since, recent legislation is sweeping local state governments to ban the substance altogether as it’s now seen as toxic and potentially addictive despite the fact that currently the leaf is considered a “botanical dietary supplement” and cannot be totally banned — yet it’s labeled a “drug of concern.”
Florida is now considering a ban on the psychoactive/psychotropic drug. A bill recently passed in the Florida House to make selling or using the controversial substance a first-degree misdemeanor.
“People who were former heroin addicts have been told that kratom is a substance that is healthy. It comes from a plant, and because it is not synthetic, it is somehow healthy. I would remind you that cocaine comes from a plant as well,” said Rep. Kristin Jacobs, who introduced the bill, HB 73. Meanwhile, an identical bill banning kratom is currently being considered in state senates of New York, New Jersey and Georgia.
Authorities in Louisville, Ky., recently intercepted a kratom shipment sent to a local smoke shop worth around $100,000, specifically concerned of the uncontrolled nature of the substance.
“People will get this in from overseas and they’ll add their own narcotics to it or their own substances to make it go farther, last longer, or give people a different feeling of euphoria or intoxication,” said Det. Brett Hankison of the Louisville Metro Police, who is leading the investigation.
On the positive side, people like Brandon Bird from Paradise Valley, Ariz., say that kratom is what saved him from a deep spiral of addiction to prescription drugs. He says it also helps him manage his post-traumatic stress disorder as well as chronic pain from when he broke his back during a bodybuilding competition.
As the debate continues, it’s sure to continue making headlines across the country.
5 Possible Kratom Benefits
The medicinal effects of kratom are diverse due to its unique alkaloid profile. Some possible positive effects include:
Opiate withdrawal relief
Opiate maintenance/transitional substance
Immune system stimulation
Nootropic (cognition enhancing)
Lowers blood sugar
Despite the grim outlook by the FDA and DEA, there have been documented benefits for taking the kratom drug in certain forms.
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Related: The Truth About Kratom