A War on Kratom: Who Uses the Herb & Why They Refuse to Back Down

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A War on Kratom: Who Uses the Herb & Why They Refuse to Back Down

When I first discovered the “kratom community,” I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into. Would I be interviewing junkies and burdens on society who were using the herb as an excuse to stay high? Who are these people and why are they fighting the biggest war of their lives because of a tea leaf?

What I found instead were highly intelligent and productive people from all walks of life. Business owners, doctors, veterans, lawyers, stay-at-home parents and a plethora of other types of individuals came out of the woodwork to voice their position on the plant, adamant to let the world know their stories and to spread messages of hope. This group is a force that cannot be reckoned with when banded together for the cause they refuse to back down on.


Kratom, an herb closely related to the coffee plant, is under intense scrutiny by both the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Advocates of the herb have worked relentlessly to provide education to the two agencies, along with lawmakers, to prove their case that kratom should in fact remain legal.

While the FDA has cited 36 deaths in association with kratom, the autopsies which have been made available are missing critical information, and several of the autopsies have not been made public despite Freedom of Information Act concerns.

“In every case where we have been able to read the autopsies, there have been other substances, both legal and illegal, and many of them contraindicated,” Robin Graham of the American Kratom Association (AKA) told Heavy. “In Florida, a young man who died this year had the muscle relaxant Flexeril and the anti-depressent Celexa in his system…the level of Celexa alone was enough to be toxic. And they’re totally contraindicative.”

“Suddenly there have been 36 deaths,” Graham stated. “But let’s take the worst-case scenario and say that these deaths were in fact caused by kratom alone. In over 20 years of kratom consumption in this country…36 deaths? I’m sorry but there have been 150 deaths from Tylenol alone in a one-year period.

Read on for information on the crusade, how to help and to see the true and profound array of stories that highlight those who have benefited from the plant:

Video Stories & Faces Behind the Kratom Movement

Nina Ajdin is an example of a woman whose life could literally be turned upside-down in every sense of the word if kratom is banned. She suffered an excruciatingly painful and debilitating (both physically and mentally) skin condition called Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW). Her body felt as if she had “third degree burns,” until she discovered the therapeutic effects of kratom.

Ajdin told Heavy:

Today I’ve successfully completed an associate’s degree and I’m about to enroll in classes towards my bachelor’s degree with hopes to gain a career, which during the most extreme part of my battle, I would have never dreamed could be possible. I’m an advocate, sister, daughter and friend. I’m learning to love me again, finding myself and starting to actually get out in public and enjoy life. Today I’m grateful for the boost that kratom definitely helped me find, to get through all the really tough times.

Kira Torres is a headstrong advocate who refuses to give up on the herb that has given her life true meaning after battling addiction. Her story has gone viral:

Jason Lee Erickson, a disabled veteran of Soldiers for Change, explains that he uses kratom for pain relief after suffering a tragic car crash and tendinitis in his knees from the military. “There’s no way it makes you high,” he said:

Lora Romney suffers from a disease called Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia, which she said feels like “an ice cream headache that won’t go away.” After undergoing unsuccessful treatments that included brain surgery and a stimulator implant in her face, she has found relief with kratom:

Kratom gave Gina Rivera her “quality of life” back. “The greatest benefit I get out of kratom is the ability to spend time with my family and friends without the misery attached,” she told Heavy. “I used to fear going out together as I thought that I was the biggest Debbie Downer in existence, but I don’t have to worry about that anymore. There are more good than bad days now, which means the world to me.” Watch her inspirational story below:

“Kratom, a tree leaf, has turned my life completely around after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Melia Woelmer stated, in addition to creating the video below. “In fact I’ve been able to get back into and enjoy all my hobbies. I’m able to take care of my family. I do not find kratom addicting, I can cut it out cold turkey and have no issues with withdrawal. I do not get any sort of high from it nor have I ever had any serious side effects. I just feel normal again. And that’s saying A LOT when you have Fibromyalgia.”

Jason talks about how kratom has helped him with chronic migraines and a rare lung disease. After being wary of using the herb, he did some research and decided to give it a shot…here’s what it has done for him:

A mother who suffers from scoliosis while raising autistic children explains how it helps her get through the day:

The cause has garnered so much attention that a documentary has been made, with hopes of airing on Netflix in the near future:

How You Can Help


AKAPhoto provided by the American Kratom Association.

The American Kratom Association has advised advocates to call on federal legislators. A “VIRTUAL MARCH ON WASHINGTON
STARTS TODAY 8:00 AM-4:30PM ET,” the team announced. The AKA asks that all advocates call Robert W. Patterson, Acting DEA Adminstrator, today @ (202) 307-8000.

In addition AKA is asking everyone to be part of their twitter campaign, which also starts today. For help, please click here.

The AKA’s website states:

Start calling, writing and emailing your federal legislators.

Contact Your Congressperson
Find yours here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Contact Your Senator
Find yours here: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

Click here to see the letter template.

Some of the things to be doing as we are working on this ATTACK:

Scott Gottlieb M.D.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002

‘I am a responsible adult who consumes Kratom to improve my health and well-being and I urge you to reconsider your stance and look at the science in support of kratom as well as all the testimonies of people that have and continue to use kratom for their benefits.’

1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332)

FDA Contact PAGE

EMAIL your story to the FDA, commissionerFDA@fda.hhs.gov.

The “Dark State” FDA bureaucracy has enlisted FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in their war on kratom. Make no mistake, the FDA staff already knows that kratom is not dangerously addictive, nor is it unsafe when used responsibly by consumers.

They have the science in hand, but they want to bury it so that they can renew their war on dietary supplements and herbal products just like they did back in 1993.
And the truth does not matter to them.

The career staff at the FDA is hell-bent on expanding the regulatory reach into the lives of every American, and kratom is their latest target.
We have to fight back, and we have to expose the FDA Dark State for every lie they are telling right now about kratom.

The American Kratom Association (AKA) did not shirk from the fight that the FDA started on August 31, 2016 when they enlisted the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to try to use their vast emergency powers to schedule kratom.

We won that battle, but every one of us knows how difficult it is to fight the federal bureaucracy.
When the dust settled, one of the leading DEA officials admitted that they thought that the “FDA duped us into doing their dirty work.”

We learned last week that the FDA is back to their dirty tricks and they have sent an 8-Factor Analysis to the DEA that demonizes kratom; claims kratom is directly responsible for 36 deaths; and that kratom is an “analogue of an opioid.”
None of that is true.

The AKA will be holding a press conference on Wednesday, November 29 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST. This article will be updated to showcase the live meeting, please check back or click here to join via Facebook.

The Botanical Education Alliance (BEA) has several ways to help via their website:

1. Volunteer Coordinator (for each state, 50) – A Volunteer Coordinator would assist in getting materials to legislatures, law enforcement and help schedule meetings with state representatives for out of state educators. You will be essential for extending the BEA’s voice, reach and influence.

2. Board Members – Board members are an integral part of the BEA’s direction, guidance and representation of the Kratom Community. Someone with experience in a similar industry such as the Kava Bar space would be greatly valued. We are looking for both members and non-members to join the board and to help contribute to the growth of the BEA.

In fact, we welcome people with diversified backgrounds, for example, individuals with experience in the following areas: finance, marketing and anyone in the health and wellness field.

The time commitment here is about 2-5 hours a month when we are not in session and while in session the commitment would be a bit more.

3. Community/Event Volunteer

We periodically have other volunteer opportunities, which include joining a committee for public policy, crowdfunding, and a call-to-action position.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please contact ryan@botanical-education.org

Photo Stories of Those Fighting the Ban

Contrary to popular belief, kratom is not used solely by those who are attempting to get off of opiates, as shown in the variety of stories. Though at a time when the opioid crisis is at an ultimate high, even if it were the sole reason people use it, why would it be taken away? Proponents of the tea leaf say that the effects cannot even be compared to marijuana, yet banning it could make it just as punishable as possessing heroin nationwide, and it is already scheduled as such in some states.

“I’ve been using Kratom for 8 years,” Charles Bischoff told Heavy. “I have gone from being a zombie on so many antidepressants, to becoming a crisis clinician, owning my own computer repair businesses and working as a full-time care giver for dementia clients.”


Charles Bischoff

“From laying on the couch to chasing 10, seven and eight-year-old boys on the soccer field,” Jenn Eury said, crediting kratom for helping to make her the best mother possible.

Jenn Eury is a devoted mother who is now able to keep up with her children.

I have gone back to work full time in the medical field, and got promoted to a manager position,” Kristina Guerriero told Heavy. “I also have a better relationship with my children, began working on my non-profit for children’s cancer again, and am no longer scared of people. My anxiety before kratom held me back. Now with Kratom I am moving forward everyday. I look forward to things. I am not depressed. I am more patient.”

Kristina Guerriero.

“I am able to keep a full-time job,” Sarah Fletcher told Heavy. “I’ve been clean off of Suboxen and pain killers for over a year. It also keeps my anxiety and depression in check.”

Sarah Fletcher is living the life she only dreamed of before.

Julie Thalman, a devoted high school teacher who uses kratom to help with pain, anxiety and depression issues, stated the following to Heavy:

I am a 55-year-old female with a Master’s in Science, a high school science teacher, and a mother of 2 home-schooled children who are now in college. I have suffered with chronic pain, fatigue, migraines, depression and anxiety for 40 years. I have PTSD and panic attacks as a result of dealing with my daughter’s life-threatening disease for the past 8 years. Kratom has helped me cope with these issues and I am staunchly opposed to its scheduling, at any level.

I learned about kratom on the internet. I had tried so many things over the years, that it was hard for me to get my hopes up. But because of the testimonies of hundreds of people, I decided to try it and the results surprised me. Within 30 minutes of consuming kratom, I actually felt good! Not drugged, not high, not impaired in any way. Just pain-free! Anyone who has suffered from chronic pain knows that feeling ‘normal’ is the best feeling you could ever ask for! And the fact that a natural supplement can provide this is very important to me.

To wake up one morning and find out that this plant, which I enjoy as a relaxing tea, could now be a Schedule 1 substance, is devastating! Especially after so many years of searching for relief. The very thought that I could go to prison for treating my pain with a completely safe and natural plant is mind-boggling. It would make more sense to schedule coffee, something that I do have side-effects from when consumed!

Our government needs to listen to the thousands of people telling their stories of how kratom has changed their lives. They need to listen to the voices of the people who are telling them they do not want the criminalization of a safe herbal supplement. We must not take disabled vets, cancer patients, moms, dads, grandparents, college students, and prescription opiate and heroin addicts that are finally turning their lives around, and turn them into criminals. Consuming a plant, rather than taking a synthetic pill, is something we should all have the freedom to choose. Additional benefits of this plant may only be discovered if it remains legal and completely accessible. If the DEA and FDA truly care about getting people off of dangerous drugs and back to productive lives, they will reconsider this decision and leave kratom legal as it should be.


Julie Thalman poses happily with her daughter.

Read on for further photo stories of kratom advocates:



Dereck Connors


Kelly Devine BEA


Shannon Carter


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