Kratom is a plant that grows in South East Asia. It is commonly used in teas and reportedly produces a calming effect on the drinker. It has also been used by those dependent on opioids and alcohol to lessen the intake of these drugs. But now the DEA is placing kratom on Schedule 1, essentially banning its use in the United States. Legal heroin, Oxycodone, will remain legal however. (Of course.)
Why does the federal government meddle in such things? It’s not like there are widespread kratom overdoses or something. (Though overdoses are possible with kratom unlike with cannabis.) There are however plenty of overdoses from prescription painkillers.
The answer probably lies in a mix of the DEA looking for something to do, vested interests concerned that a cheap alternative to expensive prescription drugs might become popular and seen as useful, and just good old fashioned American Puritanism. The bureaucrats, the corporate interests, and the moralists, the statist trifecta.
This isn’t to imply that kratom is harmless. Reportedly it can create dependence. But we should really consider why something that seems to show potential for therapeutic benefit is just banned outright and put on Schedule 1. (Cocaine in comparison is Schedule 2.)
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has filed a notice of intent (PDF) to place the southeast Asian plant called kratom to the most restrictive classification of the Controlled Substances Act. The plant, Mitragyna speciosa, and its two primary constituents, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, will be temporarily placed onto Schedule I on September 30, according to a filing by the DEA at 8:45 am Eastern time today. The full announcement is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, August 31.
Various forms of kratom and teas made from the plant’s leaves are sold in cafes and on the internet. Their primary effect is to provide a short-lived peaceful and calm feeling that is described as pleasant. Consistent with this effect being opioid-like, anecdotal reports indicate that some users have used kratom to successfully recover from physical and psychological dependence on prescription opioids and heroin…
…In the last two months, published research has pointed to why kratom might be a useful and safer alternative to prescription opioids. The main component of the herb, the alkaloid mitragynine, and its metabolite and oxidation product, 7-hydroxymitragynine, produce an effect on the mu subtype of opioid receptors away from many of the mechanisms that cause many opioid side effects. These alkaloids are now shown to be so-called G-protein biased ligands at the mu opioid receptor. This effect minimizes the engagement of an intracellular protein called beta-arrestin that among other effects, causes a reduction in opioid receptors on the surface of cells, leading to the tolerance and dose escalation commonly seen with prescription opioids.