Editor’s note: Breaking views are thoughts from individual members of the editorial board on today’s headlines.
For hundreds of years, people have used kratom as an herbal remedy for pain.
Today, many Americans use kratom as an alternative to prescription painkillers, marijuana or other drugs used to help deal with pain.
Unsurprisingly, the growing popularity of kratom has drawn increased interest from federal bureaucrats in the FDA and DEA.
Unfortunately, this interest has almost entirely been in the form of a prolonged campaign to demonize kratom.
On July 2, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Stephen Ostroff issued a statement peddling in fearmongering rhetoric about kratom.
“Kratom is an opioid, is addictive and has been linked to severe health consequences and deaths among users,” they wrote. “Despite these risks, we know that kratom has grown in popularity in recent years due to unsubstantiated claims about its purported benefits.”
The FDA has made a big point of touting kratom as an opioid and suggesting it’s “expected to have similar addictive effects” as other opioids “as well as risks of abuse, overdose and, in some cases, death.”
Scary stuff. Or course, the evidence of this is quite slim. But that didn’t stop the FDA from linking 44 deaths to kratom in February, a claim which was debunked multiple times. For example, one of the examples cited by the bright minds at the FDA was the case of a person who consumed alcohol, smoked heroin and ingested Xanax and Narco on the evening they died.
Still, they thought to tout the scary claim that kratom has been “linked” to deaths again on July 2. “Linked” is a loose enough word it gives them an out when their examples fall apart.
Meanwhile, the July 2 statement also went on to warn kratom users about a salmonella outbreak involving kratom. While it isn’t clear how widespread it is relative to the total number of people who use kratom, there were 199 cases salmonellosis in 41 states linked to kratom use.
At this point, though, with the FDA declaring on July 2 that “kratom is an inherently addictive product that can cause harm” and the DEA still considering whether to ban it, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about whether the government will be willing to compromise with kratom vendors willing to do so.
As the past century has taught us, prohibiting things that people voluntarily choose to put into their own bodies does little good for anyone. Prohibition just inserts government where it doesn’t belong, wastes public resources enforcing prohibition and condemns many more people to suffering than would otherwise be the case.
Hopefully kratom won’t get swept up into the madness of prohibition.
Sal Rodriguez is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. He may be reached at email@example.com