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The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained

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1The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained Empty The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained Mon Sep 19, 2016 12:28 pm



The DEA’s kratom ban, explained

The DEA recently moved to ban kratom — but the little-known drug could help fight the opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic.

Updated by  German Lopez  @germanrlopez   german.lopez@vox.com  
Sep 19, 2016

   Kratom capsules from Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images  
The federal government wants to ban a drug you’ve probably never heard of: kratom. But even though the drug isn’t very well-known in the US, the move is inspiring what the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) admits is a surprising level of outrage from the drug’s current users.
"That was eye-opening for me personally," DEA spokesperson Melvin Patterson told the Washington Post. "I want the kratom community to know that the DEA does hear them. Our goal is to make sure this is available to all of them."
This is certainly an unusual statement for the federal agency in charge of regulating America’s war on drugs: First, the DEA moved to ban a drug. Then, it vowed to make the drug available to everyone who wants it. What’s going on?
The DEA explains that its move was largely an act of caution. As it stands, we simply don’t have much research on kratom — not its recreational use, nor its medical use. The DEA, in an abundance of caution after reports of rising use recently, moved to ban the drug for two years while it figures out how kratom works and the proper regulatory classification for it.

The move, however, has angered pain patients, some of whom were already getting the drug over online retailers. As the opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, some pain patients have turned to alternative substances to ease their pain. One of those alternatives is kratom, which appears to have — although, again, we don’t know for sure, since the research is scarce — fewer deadly risks than opioids, yet can still relieve people’s pain.
This is the issue at hand: The DEA says there’s not enough evidence to legally allow widespread public consumption. But people who have used the drug for years or more say they’re now left out to dry, forced to suffer in pain, illegally buy kratom, or turn to more dangerous drugs, like opioid painkillers, for relief.
Before we get into all of that, it’s important to understand kratom — a drug that is relatively new to Americans, but has a long history in Southeast Asia.

Kratom is not a new drug

The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained 123368463   A drug user in Thailand breaks up a kratom leaf into a narcotic drink called 4 x 100. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images  
Kratom has been used in Southeast Asia for centuries, in part acting as an energy boost much like coffee does for Americans and coca leaves do for many people in northwest parts of South America.
The Transnational Institute, a research and advocacy group, reported in 2011 that kratom "is chewed in teashops, at certain ceremonies (though this practice is fading), and other informal social events, as well as while engaging in manual labor and in the comfort of one’s own home. Eating kratom is a tradition that has been practiced for centuries in southern Thailand and up to 70 percent of the male population in some districts use kratom daily. Indeed, many people in southern Thailand consider chewing kratom similar to drinking coffee."
The best overview of kratom’s effects comes from a 2015 study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. The study noted that there wasn’t rigorous scientific research on kratom’s effects on humans. So it instead analyzed hundreds of anecdotal accounts from Erowid, a popular website for drug users and researchers, to gauge its effects.
The study found several positive effects (from most to least common): euphoria, relaxation, enhanced sociability, increased energy, pain relief, sensory enhancement, and warmth or tingling. It also found some negative effects (from most to least common): nausea and stomachaches, withdrawal, chills and sweats, dizziness and unsteadiness, vomiting, hangovers, and itching. Reviewing other research, the study found no good evidence that kratom alone has caused deadly overdoses.
According to the study, the pain relief element has become particularly promising for pain patients who want to seek alternatives to highly addictive, potentially deadly opioid painkillers. The study also found that kratom may aid with easing withdrawal from opioid addiction.
The Transnational Institute, in its 2011 report, noted these benefits have been known in other parts of the world for a long time:
Many studies report that the effect of kratom on the body reduces pain from withdrawal symptoms and helps manage detoxification. Interviews with [Thai] community members and leaders indicated that many people have been using kratom to wean themselves off heroin, yaba, and even alcohol and tobacco dependence. Indeed, 60 years ago, when kratom became a controlled substance in Thailand, its potential for management of opiate dependence had been widely recognised.
But how do the positives and negatives of kratom compare to opioid painkillers and other drugs? Chris Ingraham, who’s done a lot of great reporting on kratom at the Washington Post, scoured Erowid for positive and negative anecdotal accounts for several drugs and how they compared to the positive and negative accounts for kratom. He put them all together in this chart, which suggests that kratom is less risky than marijuana and the opioid painkiller oxycodone:
The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained Kratom%20vs%20drugs   Chris Ingraham/The Washington Post  
Now, this isn’t a scientific ranking, since it’s based on the anecdotal accounts of drug users on Erowid who are most likely using these drugs for recreational purposes.
Still, the ranking suggests kratom is relatively safe. So why did the DEA move to ban it?

Why the DEA is banning kratom now

The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained GettyImages-171549255   Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images  
The DEA’s decision to ban kratom came as the drug has slowly gained some popularity in the US.
With that popularity came more negative reports of kratom abuse: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of calls involving kratom to US poison centers "increased tenfold from 26 in 2010 to 263 in 2015." And the DEA has tracked 15 deaths linked to kratom between 2014 and 2016 — although none of those deaths were directly attributed to kratom, since people often use it with other drugs.
Given these concerns, the DEA concluded that it needed to ban kratom to "avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety." So for potentially two years or more starting on September 30, kratom is classified as schedule 1 — meaning the agency considers it to have high potential for abuse and no recognized medical value, so selling and possessing kratom can carry criminal penalties. (Before, kratom was on the DEA’s list of "drugs of concern," meaning the agency was keeping an eye on the drug but not officially banning it.)
The DEA concluded that it needed to ban kratom to "avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety"
But the biggest issue for the DEA seems to be that we just don’t know enough about kratom.
Generally, in the US, drugs are regulated to ensure their safety and effectiveness. The DEA’s mission is in large part to ensure that drugs are not being abused recreationally, but also to ensure that drugs that are often abused recreationally are available for use as medicine if there’s research to support medical use. It typically does this by locking drugs into different schedules that measure potential for abuse and medical value.
The rub here is the research: Large-scale clinical trials — the kinds the Food and Drug Administration requires for traditional medicines — are typically necessary to prove illicit drugs have medical value. Once these trials show that, for example, kratom can be used safely and effectively as medicine, it can be classified as schedule 2, 3, 4, or 5, the schedules of drugs that have high to low levels of abuse and some medical value. (Schedule 1 is the only classification for drugs that have no recognized medical value, which is how you end up with marijuana and heroin in the same schedule 1 category.)
This research could help answer some of the big questions surrounding kratom: How well does it relieve pain, and how well does that pain relief hold up as long-term users build tolerance? How addictive is it? What are the short-term and long-term effects, good or bad, we don’t know about? Does kratom affect most people in the same way, or can it only benefit a certain segment of the population?
With the federal government’s ban, there’s a real concern that the research on kratom could remain stagnant
Until that research is done, kratom doesn’t have enough evidence, based on the scheduling system, to support its medical efficacy and safety. So the DEA classified it as schedule 1.
But sometimes the process doesn’t work. We see this with marijuana: Patients have reported that pot helps them with varying medical conditions for at least decades. Yet the government has been slow to allow and fund research in large part due to its view, made official by marijuana’s schedule 1 classification, that pot has no medical value. The result is we have some studies that show it can relieve pain and can potentially substitute far deadlier opioid painkillers for some pain patients — but we don’t have research large and rigorous enough to get marijuana officially approved as medicine by the DEA.
There’s already a dearth of research on kratom. With the federal government’s ban, there’s a real concern that the research on kratom could remain stagnant — just like it has for marijuana.
The DEA doesn’t seem to think this will happen. Patterson, the agency’s spokesperson, told the Post that he doesn’t "see it being Schedule 2 [or higher] because that would be a drug that’s highly addictive." He added, "Kratom’s at a point where it needs to be recognized as medicine. I think that we are going to find out that probably it does."
Still, the DEA’s move has terrified kratom users. The American Kratom Association has described the two-year ban in very grim terms:
We are now facing our darkest hour. The DEA has filed a notice of intent to schedule and ban kratom by September 30th, 2016. Countless people depend on this safe and effective herbal remedy related to coffee that was sacred to the Buddhists, who have used it safely for thousands of years. Many of you depend on this healing leaf for your general well-being, pain and suffering, depression, anxiety, PTSD, opioid dependency, and more.
There’s a good reason for the sense of urgency: As the opioid epidemic kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, many people are scared they’re going to lose a relatively safe alternative to opioid painkillers if the kratom ban takes effect.

Kratom could help deal with the opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic

The timing of the DEA’s move is particularly concerning to kratom advocates because the country is currently mired in a huge public health crisis — the opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic — that kratom could help fight.
Here’s the quick summary of the opioid epidemic: In the 1990s, doctors were under enormous pressure to treat pain as a serious medical issue — with good reason, as roughly one-third of Americans suffer from chronic pain, according to a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine. With encouragement from pharmaceutical companies through an aggressive marketing campaign, doctors prescribed excessive numbers of opioid painkillers — getting a lot of people hooked on the drugs and letting excess painkillers flood the black market. Opioid painkiller overdoses steadily increased, reaching epidemic levels by the 2010s.

Over time, these opioid users developed a tolerance and sought a better high. They turned to heroin, which has long been cheaper, more potent, and — especially after the government crackdown on painkillers to fight addiction — more available than opioid painkillers. As a result, heroin deaths rose. (A 2015 analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who are addicted to prescription painkillers are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin.)
With heavy emphasis on the fact the research on kratom is by no means conclusive, it seems kratom could help mitigate this epidemic by substituting opioid painkillers for some pain patients. Since kratom doesn’t appear to cause deadly overdoses frequently or at all while opioid painkillers do, replacing opioids with kratom could prove a public health gain. And since kratom doesn’t appear to cause the kind of addiction that leads to heroin use, it could also stop people from getting on a pathway to a much more dangerous, deadlier drug.
But once legal supplies are shut down on September 30 for two years — and perhaps longer if the DEA decides to keep kratom as a schedule 1 drug — pain patients are no longer going to be able to legally access the drug. If that forces them to turn to opioid painkillers or, worse, heroin, that could be a horrible outcome for public health.
The DEA has good reason under the current legal framework to act in this way — as noted above, there’s just not enough research to determine kratom’s full medical efficacy and safety. But kratom’s potential and the ongoing threat of the opioid epidemic suggest that the current legal framework is perhaps too rigid for a world with bigger, more pressing public health crises than a drug that’s not even proven to be unsafe.

MORE HERE: http://www.vox.com


2The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained Empty Re: The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained Mon Sep 19, 2016 12:32 pm



Health Benefits of Kratom
Posted on September 19, 2016 by Soren Dreier
Author: Organic Facts
The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained Kratom-Powder-990x556

Some of the most interesting health benefits of kratom leaves include their ability to lower blood pressure, relieve pain, boost metabolism, increase sexual energy, improve the immune system, prevent diabetes, ease anxiety, help with addiction, eliminate stress, and induce healthy sleep.
Kratom Leaves
Native to Southeast Asia, kratom is a tropical deciduous tree that is widely used throughout the region for medicinal purposes. The scientific name of this evergreen tree is Mitragyna speciosa, and it has had a very interesting history, including being banned in Thailand (despite being indigenous there), as it was a natural substitute for opium, thereby affecting the economy of the country. It does have many morphine-like effects, but that isn’t where the benefits of kratom leaves ends. Also, there is no addictive quality of kratom leaves, which is very valuable given some of its long-term applications for human health.
The majority of the health benefits of kratom leaves are derived from the unique chemical compounds and nutrients found within the leaves of the plant, including a wide range of alkaloids and other organic substances that affect many of the organ systems of the human body.
The plant’s leaves are widely chewed in countries where the tree grows naturally, and some high estimates suggest that up to 70% of the male population of Thailand chew anywhere from 10-60 leaves each day. The calming, soothing effects, as well as the undeniable health benefits of the leaves, are clearly positive in nature, which is what causes such a controversy. Essentially, kratom leaves are a substitute for opium, a highly addictive and dangerous drug, yet these leaves are seen as perfectly harmless, as regular as having a snack between meals. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the fascinating health benefits of kratom leaves.
Health Benefits of Kratom Leaves
Pain Relief: One of the most obvious and widely known effects of kratom leaves is pain relief. Since the leaves were first introduced to their indigenous cultures, this has been a primary use, as the analgesic properties of the alkaloids and nutrients of the leaves can quickly relieve pain throughout the body by impacting the hormonal system. By increasing the amount of serotonin and dopamine that is released into the body, pain can be alleviated (or masked) by chewing on kratom leaves. Essentially, the alkaloids dull the pain receptors throughout the body. This morphine or opium-like quality of kratom leaves is widely regarded as its most important application.
Immune System Booster: Independent studies on the various alkaloids found in kratom leaves have shown that the combinative effects can have major effects on the strength and resilience of the immune system. While this research is still being qualified and checked, traditional and anecdotal beliefs about kratom leaves show that it can reduce the severity of illnesses or prevent illness altogether.
Energy Booster: The metabolic effects that kratom has is one of the other reasons that the leaves are so popular, particularly with laborers in various countries. It can increase your energy levels by optimizing certain metabolic processes and impacting hormone levels. This is a result of increased circulation, despite its soothing nature, and a general increase in oxygenated blood to areas of the body that needs it, combining with increased metabolic activities to provide a burst of energy. For sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, kratom leaves are often an alternative, natural solution.
Sexual Stimulant: This is seen particularly in the case of sexual libido and fertility. Kratom is seen by many traditional practitioners and users as an aphrodisiac and a fertility booster, as the extra energy and blood flow can help increase fertility, re-energize a tired libido, and improve duration/conception rates.
Anxiety and Mood Swings: As you can probably imagine, any substance that is able to relieve pain and cause opium-like effects on the body will also likely have an impact on the mental stability and tone of an individual. Kratom leaves are widely used as anxiolytic substances for people who suffer from chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and mood swings. By regulating the hormones in our body, people can finally get relief from these exhausting symptoms of a chemical imbalance without having to rely on pharmaceuticals and all of the implicit side effects of those drugs.
Addiction Recovery: Due to the inherently healthy nature of kratom leaves, in combination with their range of effects, they have been used as a method of curing addiction for hundreds of years. In many cultures, opium addiction is a major issue, but regularly chewing on kratom leaves provides a similar sensation without the comedowns and negative side effects. Therefore, when people are attempting to “get clean” and stay that way, they often turn to kratom leaves as a tolerable solution, thereby making these leaves very valuable in many parts of the world. This also helps to cover withdrawal symptoms during the transition away from that more intense drug.
Heart Health: Studies have connected the use of kratom leaves to a distinct drop in blood pressure. As the leaves and their chemical components impact the body’s hormones, they also reduce inflammation throughout the body, including in the blood vessels and arteries. By relieving that tension in the cardiovascular system, kratom leaves are able to help prevent more serious heart conditions, such as atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Diabetes: One of the lesser known benefits of kratom leaves is their effect on blood sugar levels. Limited research has shown that the alkaloids found in the leaves are able to help regulate the amount of insulin and glucose is in the blood, effectively preventing the dangerous peaks and troughs that diabetics face. This can not only help diabetics manage their disorder, but also prevent it from developing in the first place.

Thanks to: http://sorendreier.com


3The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained Empty Re: The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained Mon Sep 19, 2016 12:32 pm



The DEA Is Literally About to Start Killing People
Posted on September 15, 2016 by Soren Dreier
Author: Jake Anderson
The DEA’s Kratom ban, explained Kratom-Powder-990x556

Man, do I hate being right. As of last week, according to the DEA, kratom will be categorized as a Schedule 1 drug.
Most people don’t even know what kratom is, so I didn’t expect much of a reaction to my original prediction. Even the clerks at local apothecaries doubted me. One herbalist said to me, “Nah man, they’ve been saying that for years. It’ll never happen.”
The DEA’s move effectively renders kratom as dangerous to distribute or purchase as cocaine and heroin. The announcement has been met with loud and fierce acrimony. A whitehouse.gov petition has over 100k signatures and is likely to reach 200k.
The petition clearly states what is at stake:
“Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
“This is not true for Kratom, it has been shown numerous times in reports from users to help recovering Opiate addicts, treat pain, combat depression and anxiety, and much more. Deaths that involve Kratom being a persons’ system have always been from the result of mixing Kratom with other drugs, rather than Kratom alone. In states that banned Kratom, Alabama specifically, opiate usage and deaths went up after Kratom was banned in the state. Please stop the DEA from scheduling Kratom as Schedule I, there are many people who will suffer from this.”
I’ll go ahead and disclose that I have a horse in this race. I take kratom daily for anxiety. I discovered it while attempting to curb a painkiller hankering. Years earlier, a chiropractor who was treating me for a pinched nerve gave me a prescription to Vicodin and….well, you know how the story goes.
I discovered kratom on the internet during a late-night information binge. I wrote it in a notebook filled with disjointed thoughts and phrases — my organizer — and the next day, I purchased some at Happy High Herbs in Ocean Beach, California. I learned there were three kinds – red, green, and white. I tried the red first and was stunned. There it was, that feeling of wellness. Not euphoria, just — a feeling that it was going to be okay, that people didn’t hate me, that my life hadn’t already ended in failure, that I might not end up in a straight jacket orating Finnegan’s Wake backward from memory.
It was the same feeling Vicodin gave me. Here’s the difference: one can kill you and one can’t.
The primary active alkaloid in kratom, mitragynine, is an opioid agonist that binds to the feel-good receptors in the brain, just as heroin and other opiates do. However, unlike opiates, which bind to mu receptors, mitragynine binds to delta opioid receptors. This one distinction makes kratom incapable of, say, shutting down your respiratory system; a simple neurochemical receptor preference makes one drug safe and the other potentially deadly.
Kratom performs a little magic trick. It deludes the brain into thinking it’s getting opiates without actually delivering them. It simulates the high. Of course, like anything that makes you feel good, kratom can be addictive. Just like any number of legal sundries that propel people through their busy days, it can be habit-forming. Like coffee. In fact, kratom is quite literally like coffee; it’s derived from a tree (Rubiaceae) in the coffee family.
Again, kratom does have habit-forming potential. It can cause addiction and, therefore, withdrawal. But this can be said of coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. Any substance that tinkers with neurochemistry has the potential for abuse.
Supporters of the kratom ban maintain, simply, that it is a threat to the public. But this is a hollow, specious argument. There are apocryphal, unsubstantiated online reports of a few deaths that may have been related to kratom use. A Longview mom was found dead after smoking kratom, but the coroner has not concluded kratom was the cause of death. There is a report claiming nine people died from kratom use in Sweden. The blend that killed them, however, contained O-desmethyl-Tramadol, which is an extremely powerful opioid analgesic, meaning kratom alone was not the cause.
Other articles online claim 15 people died from kratom overdoses between 2014 and 2016. Without going into each case, it should be noted that all of them involve people who had consumed multiple substances and likely died from the other substances. This can be deduced by the following fact: there is not one documented case of a person overdosing and dying purely from kratom. Not one. Like marijuana — another Schedule 1 drug — kratom is medicinal, with countless therapeutic uses.
The same cannot be said for prescription painkillers. In the United States, between the years of 1999 and 2014, 165,000 people died from prescription opioid overdose. Currently, 46 people die every day — more than one every hour.
In 2012, healthcare providers wrote 207 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers, up from 76 million in 1991. Either the experience of pain has tripled in the last decade and a half, or pharmaceutical companies have conscripted the nation’s entire health care apparatus into a legal pills-for-profit scheme. My bet is on the latter. Numbers don’t lie, especially when there are dollar signs involved.
Purdue alone has profited $31 billion from OxyContin. That’s one drug from one company.
It is blatantly transparent to even mainstream media outlets that the kratom ban is a lever by which the government can protect the corporate profits of Big Pharma, who stand to lose billions to a healthier competitor. It is crony capitalism at its worst. Thousands of people have died because of painkiller overdoses and the same people responsible for that are now banning a solution to the problem.
Is it really that simple? Or is it actually more sinister? Do pharmaceutical companies want to get rid of the competition, or do they want to use legal channels to reroute the flow of money? Era of Wisdom points out recent patents that suggest Big Pharma wants to monetize kratom:
“Three synthetic opioids, in particular, were synthesized from the alkaloids in kratom from 2008- 2016: MGM-9, MGM-15, and MGM-16.
“They were synthesized from kratom’s alkaloids Mitragynine and 7-Hydroxymitragynine: to make what is essentially patentable, pharmaceutical kratom.”
Behind the scenes, Big Pharma has been developing patents for a substance the government just made illegal. When they have developed their synthetic concoctions — when they’re the ones selling it — kratom will be reborn into a new market. My guess is that this new market will open at the advent of a massive, federally subsidized Big Pharma PR campaign to deal with the addiction epidemic it created, weening its addicts off real opium with their new synthetic kratom. But you can’t get it from an herbalist — get in line at the pharmacy.
Incidentally, this same exact scenario already occurred in Thailand, where the government banned kratom in order to run its own opium industry.
The meteoric rise of the kratom industry (fueled by people desperate to stop taking painkillers) will now see an equally drastic decline. Countless small businesses will shutter their doors. I spoke with Sara Kilbride, who works at Happy High Herbs, where I bought my first kratom. She said she personally knows many people who are very upset — people who have relied on kratom for pain relief, anxiety relief, and even symptoms of ADD. Some of her friends have already switched back to opiates. One friend, who for years drank alcohol to reduce back pain, had relied on kratom to avoid taking painkillers. She wondered what he will do now, further noting the all-natural compound has saved the lives of countless veterans.
She’s not being hyperbolic. With kratom gone, thousands of people will look for other ways to relieve their pain. Many will return to pills, and when the pills run out, they will turn to heroin… you know the story.
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