The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is moving to place the herbal supplement kratom on its list of Schedule I drugs, effectively banning a naturally occurring psychoactive substance that some say holds promise as a therapy for opioid addiction.
The DEA, in a notice published in the Federal Register this week, said it wants to include two active kratom ingredients in its most restrictive classification of drugs with high potential for abuse and no known medical benefit, signaling that the government considers the plant as dangerous as heroin. The scheduling move would last for two years, with a possible extension of an additional year, and would go into effect at the end of September.
Kratom is made from the leaves of Mitragyna speciosa, a Southeast Asian tree related to coffee, and has been consumed in Asia for millennia, typically as a tea or powder. The herb contains alkaloids that appear to activate opioid receptors in the brain and reduce pain. Although most opioids have sedative qualities, low to moderate doses of kratom serve as a mild stimulant.
These characteristics have led advocates and some researchers to claim that kratom can be used as a maintenance drug, or a step-down treatment, to help recovering opioid addicts.
But the DEA, in its Federal Register noti