Chances are you’ve never heard of Kratom. It’s a leafy plant from South East Asia from the coffee family that some say could be an alternative to opioids and may help put a dent in the record number overdose deaths in Canada.
University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) assistant professor, Zach Walsh, is the co-author of a study that concludes that Kratom can’t be overlooked as a tool to combat the opioid crisis.
“We certainly aren’t at the level of evidence where we can say this is going to be a substitute for opioids,” Walsh said. “It doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as potent in terms of being a pain reliever. But what the evidence suggests is it might be something that can help some people to get off opioids.”
Kratom can be sold in a powdery form legally in Canada but you can only buy it for aroma therapy purposes such as incense because it hasn’t yet been approved for consumption by Health Canada.
The side effects of Kratom are controversial. There are reports that it can cause psychosis, lead to suicide or violence. Walsh said those reports are based on hysteria.
“Hysteria similar to what we’ve seen with cannabis for 50 years. Similar to what we’ve seen with some psychedelic drugs where there’s a few instances of harms that get blown out of proportion,” Walsh said.
Walsh said with an estimated 4,000 drug overdose deaths expected this year in Canada, it would be a mistake for government to overlook Kratom.
“We’ve seen the mistakes that we’ve made in the past by over reacting when there’s some new substance that comes into public view and I just hope that we’re beyond that now and we can have scientific examination of this ancient but also somewhat novel plant.”