What was once hailed the “miracle cure” for heroin and opioid addiction has now been deemed a “potential killer” by the FDA.
Kratom is an herbal supplement that has begun to make some pretty serious waves over the last few years. It was previously deemed as the perfect alternative to help heroin and opioid users combat their current addiction, but in the most recent statement from the FDA, evidence has shown that not only has Kratom shown no sign of helping sway opiate addiction, but it actually can be extremely addictive itself.
Hands are Tied
Currently, the state of Kratom remains in what the FDA has called “regulatory limbo” as it has not officially been ruled on by any courts and remains legal in 43 states. However, it is currently on a federal watch list, as the FDA decides which plan of action to take on the now declared “deadly drug”.
Primarily, most Kratom shipments are coming from Southeast Asia, so the FDA has been working towards limiting distribution on the herbal supplement, but until they come forward with a legal classification of drugs, their “hands are tied” reports an FDA official.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Apparently, one of the main benefits of Kratom is that it comes in a variety of different strains that “cure” multiple ailments. Some of these are;
- Red Kratom: for Pain Relief
- White Kratom: for energy boosts and focus
Kratom comes from the same family as coffee beans but binds to the opiate receptors in the brain. Many of the frequent users have stated that it helps completely rid them of minimal to severe body pain, and is a perfect alternative to prescription painkillers prescribed by doctors.
In an interview with several employees in a Brooklyn Kava shop, they see nothing wrong and no negative aspects to openly serving kratom drinks to the public, and since the bill for a legal consumption age has not yet been passed, there are minors a plenty sitting at kava bars, being served the herb mixed in with coffee drinks, chai tea, hibiscus blends, etc.
“People will come in every week and stock up on it, You can tell they don’t just want it — they need it.” – Brooklyn smoke shop owner who sells through 10 packages of Kratom daily at multiple different store locations.
Since Kratom binds to the opiate receptors and induces feelings of pain relief and some mild euphoria, many people who were once addicted to opiates and heroin have started to just transfer their addiction into the herbal supplement.
So far, there have been 36 documented Kratom related deaths and can result in “seizures, withdrawal symptoms, and liver damage” reports FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
When combined with other drugs, it has been shown to lead to:
- Bleeding in the Lungs
- Heart Palpitations
According to FDA spokesman, Melvin Patterson, “People seem to accidentally get addicted after trying it as a supplement or to help get off harder drugs. Then they struggle to get off of it.”
A New York woman who spoke with the New York Post told about her girlfriend who became extremely addicted to Kratom, stating that she experienced severe opiate-like withdrawals.
“These sellers advertise it as a totally benign thing when, in fact, there’s a dangerous side. She was vomiting, shaking, and sweating. When she hadn’t had it in half a day, she couldn’t walk down the sidewalk. She had to constantly be next to a bathroom.”
Reported cases of people having to attend substance abuse rehabilitation due to their Kratom use has been increasing as well.
However, while the bill for Kratom regulation has been collecting dust in Congress, the DEA has received over 20,000 statements from the public, where about 90 percent of them were in favor of keeping Kratom legal. An estimated 25 percent of those people were previous opioid users, and an estimated 65 percent suffered from chronic pain.
There are obviously many people who promote the stance that Kratom is still a wonder drug. One man told the New York Post that he had been drinking 2 cups of Kratom tea every day for sixth months after a 3 story fall during a construction accident.
“My doctor wanted to give me painkillers, but I didn’t want to get addicted to them. My friend suggested Kratom and once I started drinking it, I could move my shoulder again. It was totally healed.”
Another man, an ex-heroin user that had been struggling with addiction for four years, says he switched to Kratom and it completely relieved his withdrawal symptoms. He did, however, state that “I feel like I just became dependant on something else. I don’t want to have a crutch, I just want to be sober.”
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that there really isn’t a bottom line. Kratom can be, and possibly should be, distributed and monitored in a similar fashion to alcohol. While it can be completely healthy and fine for some people, others, especially those who already suffer from an addiction, or who are prone to abusing substances, can become extremely addicted to the product.
The question remains as to what the FDA and the DEA will ultimately decide to do on legalization and classification of Kratom. The jury remains out on their current options. However, despite the high numbers of people who are on board with keeping Kratom legal, there still may need to be more studies and more time spent to examine just how much of an effect the plant-based supplement has on the United States.
Could it be the answer to our opioid epidemic, or could it just be a kickstand for substance abuse sufferers to stand on until it becomes the newest epidemic?
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