Editor’s note: Breaking views are thoughts from individual members of the editorial board on today’s headlines.
It’s no secret that drug warriors at the the Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration want to ban the pain-relieving plant kratom.
In 2016, the DEA announced plans to place the plant, which has been safely used by millions of people for hundreds of years, into the highly restrictive Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. As with marijuana and LSD, which are also Schedule I drugs, this would prohibit kratom for any use under federal law.
While the DEA later walked back the decision, the FDA has recently stepped up efforts to demonize the plant.
Last November, the FDA issued a press release about the “deadly risks” of kratom use. A key assertion from the FDA at the time is that there have been 36 deaths “associated” with kratom use. Last month, the FDA revised the number of deaths “associates” with kratom use to 44. The word “associates” is key because the FDA lacks evidence that kratom actually caused the deaths in question.
On Monday, the American Kratom Association released a policy report analyzing the three dozen cases the FDA is citing as evidence of the “deadly risks” of kratom use. Simply put, the report makes clear that the FDA is being incredibly dishonest with the public in a blatant effort to demonize kratom.
Of the 33 cases in which there is any information available, the vast majority of them involve multiple drug use, and in none of the cases is there evidence kratom is actually responsible for the deaths.
For example, one case cited by the FDA involved an individual who drank alcohol, smoked heroin and took Xanax and Narco on the evening of their death.
The FDA also cites the case of one individual who hanged himself an had numerous drugs, including alcohol and benzodiazepines, in his system, as well as a history of mental health problems.
In another case, the FDA associates with kratom the death of a 298-pound man whose cause of death was pulmonary thromboemboli due to deep vein thrombosis. The report lists the following substances as being in his system at the time: opiates, benzodiazepines, cannabinoids, oxycodone, fluoxetine, norfluxoetine, trazodone, alprazolam, nordiazepan, gabapentin and mitragynine.
In one case lacking much information, the case of an individual who drank kratom tea on a Friday and died on a Sunday is listed as evidence of the dangerousness of kratom.
“None of the case reports released to date support the evidentiary standard required by the CSA to prove there is a risk to the public health that relies primarily on the FDA claim of ‘numerous deaths associated with kratom,’” concluded report author Jane Babin.
“No full disclosure has been done on these purported kratom deaths,” said Dave Herman, board chairman of AKA. “An agency that has the full force and effect of the United States government…is using anecdotal stories to prove a case they simply cannot prove.”
It certainly seems that way.
Unfortunately, the FDA is trying to pull a fast one on Americans, with no regard for the truth of their claims or the potential consequences of a ban on kratom. If the FDA actually wanted to protect the public, they’d stick to the facts and work with, not against, kratom distributors to encourage better manufacturing processes to ensure purity of kratom products.
Sal Rodriguez is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org