Kratom: Is the US trying top ban a Plant that helps heroin addicts beat addiction.

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Kratom is hailed by some a wonder drug, but others aren’t so convinced


When Donald Trump became US president a few minority groups took a sharp intake of breath, worried at how the unpredictable businessman might affect them. Perhaps among the least well-known is the community of people who take a drug called kratom.

The drug, also known as mitragyna speciosa, is a member of the coffee plant family, and originates from Southeast Asia. Due to its opiate properties, it has been used by addicts to wean themselves off drugs, including in the US which is struggling to contain heroin and opiate addiction in the population. In 2013, 1.9million Americans were addicted to some for of opiate, whether prescription pain killers or heroin.

In small doses the plant acts like coffee and in larger doses as a relaxant, as it contains both the stimulant mitragynine and opiate 7-hydroxymitragynine.

At the beginning of March, over 26,000 people in the US had signed a petition lead by the American Kratom Assocation (AKA) calling on the President to stop a push by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make kratom illegal. A report by the AKA released in November suggested that Kratom is as harmless as nutmeg.

“We are veterans, and lawyers,  and factory workers, and school teachers, and health care professionals. We are mothers and fathers and grandparents and senior citizens,” the petition read. “We are the real face of America. Our choice to consume kratom does not make us ‘drug abusers’ any more than drinking a cup of coffee would.”

However, the reality seems a little more complex. On the Kratom Reddit forum users can find how to take kratom – including in capsules, in food and tea – as well as dosing and where to find it. Users celebrate the drug as saving them from opiate addiction, including prescription drugs and alcohol, but also share attempts to wean themselves off. “It’s been a great ride, but it’s time for me to exchange the kratom crutch for one that is less habit forming,” wrote one user.

“Kratom is an interesting case,” says Hayden Griffin, Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who is an expert in the drug. “Although the plant has been used for hundreds of years in Southeast Asia, it is relatively new to the United States.

“From the research literature, it is difficult to find any reports of any deaths attributed solely to kratom. Thus, it seems like there is not an immediate need to regulate kratom and the decision by the DEA to emergency schedule kratom, which has since been withdrawn, seemed hasty, especially since this regulatory action would have essentially prohibited medical researchers from conducting studies with kratom.

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