Experts Speak Out Against Kratom Crackdown
If there is one thing we have learned about modern society, is that it likes to ban what it doesn’t understand. It would seem like blanket bans are the new hip thing that all politicians want to get behind – maybe as a knee-jerk reaction to the growing support for legalised weed, allowing them to focus their prohibitionist ways elsewhere. The latest substance to come under fire is Kratom, but it isn’t going down without a fight, as experts speak out against the impending FDA crackdown.
WHAT IS KRATOM?
Kratom is an all-natural herbal remedy that has been used for as long as time has been measured. Originally hailing from Southeast Asia, Kratom is traditionally used as both a stimulant and sedative, inducing different effects depending on how much is used.
In the West, Kratom is often used as an alternative to opiate-based pharmaceuticals to relieve pain. It is also now being utilised as a way of treating opiate withdrawals, as it acts on the same mechanisms within the body, without binding to receptors in the same way that opiates do – avoiding serious physiological addiction.
KRATOM: GAINING BAD PRESS
Why is a relatively harmless herbal remedy in the firing lines? Because misrepresentation has caused a public outcry. Kratom has been used safely for thousands of years, yet all of a sudden, it is being portrayed as a serious risk to health. In the US, many media outlets have branded kratom the new heroin – because of the way it acts on the same systems. There have even stories of distraught parents blaming kratom for their child’s suicide, or some other nonsensical problem. As sad as many of the situations are, Kratom is being used as a scapegoat. It is not physiologically addictive – it is used to treat addiction! – and it doesn’t distort the mind or put someone in a situation where they would want to commit suicide.
It is more likely, in these situations, that people are being sold “legal highs” and adulterated products under the guise of kratom – which is a true worry. These corrupted versions and chemical substitutes could have all kinds of negative effects, yet the user is none the wiser. It is the same as some people believing that Spice and other brands of synthetic marijuana are the same as the real deal – when they could not be any more different.
EXPERTS SPEAK OUT
With various states in the US and other countries around the world all mulling over the idea of banning kratom – potentially cutting off millions of users from their life changing medication – experts are standing up to oppose the efforts.
Such experts include Ryan Estevez, MD, a psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist; Phil Schoenwetter, MD, a family practitioner; and Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association.
Estevez, a man who has worked in both prisons and emergency rooms for years, describes how he has seen his fair share of “good” and “bad” drugs, stating firmly that kratom is certainly not one of the bad ones. According to Estevez, any attempt to ban Kratom is wasteful, and the result of a knee-jerk reaction to media stories and hype, instead of scientific fact. Kratom has been benefiting millions of people for decades; it is only recent disinformation that has led to law makers scrambling to set a ban - which helps no one.
Schoenwetter has given an account of his own personal encounters with Kratom, which as a practitioner, he has found immense value in:
"My first encounter with Kratom was stunning and unexpected. Janet, my wife of 35 years, suffers from migraines and last year had a breakthrough episode that normally would require strong pharmaceutical treatment. While fueling our SUV at a Chevron station in Nevada, Janet went to the food mart and noted a lady requesting her daily eight capsule packet of Kratom. The kind lady said it helped with her midlife aches and pains and no other adverse side effects. Janet purchased the same packet and took one capsule. Although a licensed physician in several states since 1978, I had not even encountered the word ‘Kratom.’ Some 60 miles down the road Janet announced she was OK, pain free, clear of thought, (not 'loaded' as with morphine) and ready to take the wheel, which she did flawlessly for some 165 miles. This was the clarion call to wake up, smell the coffee (another botanical) and delve more deeply into natural agents and understand mechanisms of action and implement in my family medicine practice. Adverse events are infrequent and when occurring are minimal, transient, and most often is light heartburn lasting a few hours. Kratom already is a ‘must have’ adjunct to numerous long-term conditions and its role in my practice already exceeds the ‘usual and customary’ uses that one normally will find referenced in literature found on the internet."
McGuffin, who has long defended the nature of Kratom, has stated that any FDA attempt to ban the substance on a national level is unlikely to stick. There is clear and irrefutable scientific evidence surround kratom and its uses – meaning it is not the “mystery” herb that some try and portray it as. There are many official and credible companies that produce kratom to extremely high standards, preventing the risk of adulterated and harmful substances.
Kratom seems to get a bad rap, but at the end of the day, the science and experts are there to fight its case. Kratom is an alternative medicine that has been used without serious negative consequence for as long as history has been written, and as long as science has a say, it shall continue to do so, no matter what hype and misinformation the media tries to throw at it.