In late 2016 the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began an application to list the herb kratom as a Schedule 1 drug in the United States. In the face of strong opposition from several bodies including medical scientists, the DEA backed down for the first time in its history. Kratom is legal to buy in the US as a result.

What is kratom?

Kratom is an herb found in South East Asia that has been used since the dawn of human civilization by indigenous people who knew about its amazing medicinal properties. Kratom is predominantly used as a pain killer, as a tool for coming off opiate addiction and for a few people (one of the reasons the DEA hates it) as a way of getting a tiny little bit of a buzz for fun. 

There are several strains of kratom, some used for energetic and stimulating effects, while others used for their more relaxing sedating properties. One of the most popular strains is maeng da kratom.

Medical researchers in the US and Europe have only been looking at the medical potential of kratom for the last 10 or so years. What they have found has excited them – the reasons the aboriginals of South East Asia have been using the herb seem to the scientists to be true. Kratom is a very good medicine. 

There are thousands of kratom users in the United States who have been using it to break free from their prescription painkiller addiction, while tackling the pain that they became addicted to their pain pills at the same time. Using kratom you don’t get sick as you might if you did a cold turkey withdrawal from an opiate pain pill. Another issue is that complete withdrawal from opiates can be very dangerous, with some people actually dying in the process of unsupported withdrawal. Kratom lessens the dangers of withdrawal.

Why did the DEA try to ban kratom?

There were a number of recent instances where people who used drugs died and were found to have kratom in their bodies in the autopsies that followed. The DEA went to ban kratom as a matter of public safety. 

A group of high level officials and scientists argued successfully that many of the other substances found in all the fatalities in question could have killed those people independently. Heroin and alcohol, found in nearly every fatality in question, can stop the user breathing while they are comatose on the drug. 

Kratom however has not been linked to any death on its own. Unlike opiates and alcohol, kratom does not stop you breathing. On its own, or as part of a managed opiate withdrawal program, it can be a safe and effective way of coming off those other drugs. 

What next for kratom?

Kratom could well be picked up by pharmaceutical companies as the next wonder drug. For now, you can buy kratom in the US perfectly legally in most states and use it to self-medicate for pain relief or opiate addiction.