Kratom is a plant grown in Thailand. Its leaves contain a molecule that affects the human brain much like opium or its derivative heroin. Amazingly you can still buy it and use it in the U.S., although the FDA has outlawed importing it. It has been marketed as an herbal supplement, which it is, and it offers a soothing relief of tension and anxiety. I agree with those who consider it another one of the good things a bountiful mother nature has offered to the human race. It is sold in convenience stores, and online and served at coffee shops and juice bars in liquid form as a drink and in powder form in small packages with which to make your own tea or cocktail.
It is under federal scrutiny, however, and may become hard to get. Following the ban on imports federal marshals seized a dozen tons of it at a Los Angeles warehouse, according to the New York Times. No proof has been reported yet that it is unsafe to use moderately or that anyone is touting it as a cure for some health problem, so the FDA lacks the jurisdiction to schedule among the federally banned drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.
The Times does report, however, that several people have had trouble with it when they attempted to use it to curtail or quit their heroin use. It’s similarity to heroin, though milder in effect, makes it problematic to persons already addicted to heroin or who may be genetically vulnerable to addiction. Sad, but true, a minority of us find things they like so much they develop compulsive behaviors around them. Even more sadly, I would argue, our governments, state and federal, can only think of one response: ban it! Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming already have. According to the American Kratom Association they were able to stop prohibition legislation proposed in Florida and Alabama.
When prohibition happens bad things follow. It quickly becomes a new product offering for black market traffickers and more work for law enforcement at all levels. The illicit trafficking of drugs is what makes them more available to kids. Traffickers love prohibition and always have. Law abiding people who could enjoy a mild stress and anxiety reliever now and then are deprived of a product that can give them that relief. And, because no one will be able to use it over time, we the people will not learn enough about its properties and its potentials to become knowledgeable and responsible users of it. That has been the history of marijuana, another beneficial plant product that prohibition has made more dangerous by maintaining ignorance about it.
The Times quotes Dr. Edward W. Boyer, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School as saying: “It’s a fascinating drug, but we need to know a lot more about it.” A co-author of several scientific articles on kratom he went on to say: “Recreationally or to self-treat opioid dependence, beware — potentially you’re at just as much risk” as with an opiate.
If the feds are going to ban it, and I’m betting they will under our current ill-advised policies, it may take a very long time ever to “know a lot more about it.”
© All rights reserved to Dave Finch 1/7/2016
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