The Kratom Saga — Who Shall Own the Healing Herbs?

By Paul Kemp

Is Prohibition About to Be Repeated?

Kratom is the poster-child for so many things that are going wrong today, in America.

Kratom — Mitragyna speciosa — is merely the leaf of a tree, in the same family as the coffee plant. It contains 40 or more compounds, with several of them having definite medicinal potential. One of these, an indole alkaloid, is the one painkiller many drug companies would love to have…safely under patent.

Kratom is an herb that grows in the jungles of Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia. It has been used there as a folk medicine for many purposes for centuries. Lately it has become the subject of alarmist TV and news reports about this terrible new “legal high” that is being sold on the ‘Net, in convenience stores, and in smoke shops.

(News reports like this attract more of the thrill seekers that these reporters are trying to deter. This is a shame because there is much more to the kratom story, for those who look deeper.)

Kratom has hundreds of thousands of American fans who love the herb because it can do things that no synthetic drug can do nearly as well. They don’t want to lose the current legal status of this herb that the DEA says is a “drug of concern” that has no recognized medical value.

There are many people, here and abroad, who would differ with this assessment! Kratom has been used in Thailand and other southeast Asian countries for hundreds if not thousands of years as a mood-lifter, an energizing tonic for laborers and farmers, as an anti-diabetic, an analgesic, anti-hypertensive, anti-depressant, and reportedly for extending the length of coitus.

The Thai people recognize the medicinal uses of this herb that grows there. It just hasn’t gone through the expensive process of obtaining the blessing of the FDA, here in the U.S.

For an herb with “no recognized medical use”, there sure are a lot of scientists spending a lot of someone’s money to learn about the unique anti-inflammatory compounds, the antidepressant alkaloids, and especially the pain-relieving alkaloid that is several times stronger than morphine, but without the fatal flaw of all other opiates and opioids: suppressing breathing.

Here, we have a painkiller that, by itself, has never killed the person in pain.

About to Repeat a Trillion Dollar Failure?

Unfortunately, for all kratom’s good points, there seems to be an inescapable conflict between its fans who like it just the way it is, and the drug companies that want to tweak its molecules so they can be patented — and owned.

As you know, big companies like Monsanto are very much into creating their own unique versions of natural plants — staple foods like corn and soybeans and many more — and then, patenting them. The pharmaceutical giants also like to have a patent that legally gives them ownership of the market for a new drug for a set number of years — essentially a monopoly.

At this point, the plot thickens. (Or sickens, depending on who’s telling the story.)

The media enter the picture screaming about the danger to the children……..from kratom?

Who could be behind all this sudden concern over a few teenagers going to the ER because they discovered this inexpensive legal herb — and being teenagers, they believed that if some was good, then more was even better.

I am struggling to understand what’s going on here. Marijuana is becoming legal in several states — and this gentle herb kratom, which is nowhere near as mindblowing as today’s pot is getting the “bum’s rush”.

Didn’t we, as a nation, learn anything from history? One Trillion dollars have been spent on the War on Drugs and we have more drug use than ever, so what was the point?

“The number of annual deaths from lethal concentrations of prescription medicines increased 84 percent from 2003 to 2009, while deadly overdoses of illegal drugs fell 21 percent. Deaths from the narcotic painkiller oxycodone and anxiety medicine alprazolam, sold under the brand name Xanax, more than tripled,” reports

For the past ten years, legally-prescribed drugs are killing more Americans than are illicit drugs.

So, why all the fuss about an herb used by many to free themselves from prescription drug addiction?

Shall We Protect the Reckless Minority at the Expense of the Prudent Majority?

We, the people of the USA, are being urged by TV newscasters to ask our legislators to take this herb away from hundreds of thousands of Americans who use it to quell pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression, for stimulation, and relaxation, so that a small number of individuals may be protected from their own willful behavior.

Where are our priorities?

So, a few kids got a stomach ache when they took too much kratom, but it’s okay for more than 10,000 women to die accidentally from overdoses of prescription painkillers as addictive and as deadly as heroin?

It’s okay for 10,228 to die (in 2010) as a result of drunken drivers but we don’t ban liquor sales, but kratom — which has been used for helping alcoholics and opioid drug addicts break their habits quietly, at home, without the expense and stigma, is in the process of being criminalized in three states at this time.

Don’t we all have a friend or relative who is sinking under the spell of these super-strong pharmaceuticals and perhaps other drugs that can unintentionally cause that person’s death?

Where is the media uproar over that?

If it seems like the pharmaceutical companies are running America, you’re not alone in feeling that way.

I believe the real issue here is freedom to choose what you shall put in your own body, so long as your behavior doesn’t endanger anyone else.

As history has shown, the Prohibition on alcohol use and sales didn’t stop Americans from drinking in the “Roaring ’20s” and the “Depression ’30s”.

Spending a Trillion dollars of our tax money on trying to stop the importation, sale, and use of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin didn’t change use patterns. A small percentage of any population will always find ways to get high, no matter what the penalties. This is human nature.

So now, we seem to be admitting that marijuana does have some unique medicinal properties, after all, and it can be prescribed by doctors.

Will it take 40+ more years to admit that kratom prohibition might have been a mistake?

How much will that mistake cost us in dollars and lives?

Are You Thinking, “It’s Not My Problem?”

Now, you might be saying, “But I’m not hooked on Oxycontin or Percocet, so this isn’t important to me.”

That may be true…now…but your situation can quickly change if you are in a serious auto accident, or hurt your back at work, or you develop crippling arthritis or fibromyalgia and your doctor starts you on one or more of these seductive painkillers.

No-one starts out in that situation with the intention of becoming thoroughly addicted to these narcotics — and most of these folks know they should quit and want to, if it wasn’t so darn scary and difficult.

So, why is it necessary to take kratom away from these good people, just because there are a few fools who want to push the limits. Why do we ignore the well-known fact that prohibition doesn’t work — and it is massively expensive to warehouse and feed the largest prison population in the world, as we do now — many of them are only guilty of possessing or selling another herb?

Why go through prohibition once again? We are just getting over our last failure, why repeat it anew?

Well, who has a motive to push this campaign that seems to have the same talking points on TV stations all across the nation? Who would benefit from criminal penalties on kratom?

A new Prohibition — this time on kratom — would give police something to do to justify expanding their budgets. It would fill empty jail beds with nonviolent offenders, the kind that state, local, and for-profit prison management outfits like.

But police agencies don’t spend any money advertising their products and services like a certain other big player does.

Having read through many of the 91 published research studies — many of them done in just the last few years — I’ve got to believe that some large drug companies may be salivating over the thought of getting the herb kratom off the market so they can roll out a few of the blockbuster drug candidates they have derived from kratom.

It irks me that the American people can be so easily stampeded into a decision that will only cost us a lot more money, when the majority of us are hurting financially.

If, indeed, this whole hate and fear campaign exists to get the American taxpayers to pay for clearing the herbal competition (kratom) off the market so some giant pharmaceutical manufacturers can increase their market share of pain remedies, how would you feel?

Would you mind seeing our country stuck with another huge enforcement campaign to help out a “poor” multinational drug company? I would — and that’s a big part of why I’m writing this article.

I’m tired of seeing our country being pushed around by these large corporations that practically choose our elected officials with their campaign donations. This bugs me. Some aren’t even U.S. companies.

It bothers me to see a lot of good people about to lose the one God-given herb about which so many say, “Kratom gave me my life back.”

So, I don’t mind if some pharmaceutical company patents their synthetic derivatives of kratom. It will probably do like the synthetic THC Marinol did — it flopped! People preferred the herbal form, with nature’s blend of alkaloids, even though they had to dodge the law to get it.

The same thing will happen with kratom, but please, don’t take away the natural herb and leave us all to pay for another failed attempt to stop responsible people from choosing an herbal alternative to synthetic medications.

This time around — with kratom — let’s try education, not incarceration.