By Dalton Rosario
Much controversy surrounds the medicinal properties of Kratom. What is known about this herbal supplement - native to Southeast Asia - is that once its leaves are crushed by way of chewing, mixed into a fine powder or brewed into tea, users experience a relief from muscle pains, an increase in energy and sociability and feelings of euphoria that combat depression and anxiety. In 2016 Kratom was the target of scrutiny by the DEA for speculative classification as a Schedule 1 Drug due to posing an imminent hazard to public safety. Despite this, Kratom is becoming more widely accepted to combat addiction to opioid medications, leading advocates to infer its potential in replacing prescription opioids all together. Typically taken as a pill, Kratom has two chemical compounds Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine which react with opioid receptors in our brain, acting as a stimulant in small doses and a sedative in large amounts.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of 2017 the FDA has identified 44 deaths due to Kratom related overdosing. It is necessary to note that Kratom was not the only active substance discovered in these cases. Typically overdoses included traces of other over-the-counter medications, opioids and/or alcohol; causing the FDA to vilify its use in association with “serious side effects including respiratory depression, seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms.”
While it may be difficult to determine the detrimental relation Kratom has to dependency from misuse, what is known about this herb is it’s positive effects on users who practice moderation in their consumption of the plant. As we have seen in regard to the prohibition of cannabis, banning Kratom would certainly cause more harm than good to those who experience positive medicinal benefit from proper dosing. We should not penalize current patients by removing legal access to this supplement which increases their quality of life, but rather seek out greater understanding about this plant to better regulate, educate and administer its healthy use.