I had never heard of kratom or kakuam or ketum until last month while chatting it up with a friend of mine who’s very active in the skater community. He said kratom use is widespread and has concerns that many of his friends are addicted to it. I used him why he thought the herbal supplement could bring about codependency in users and he laughed, saying “They take a handful of kratom pills multiple times a day.” This article is for the thousands of skaters and millions of people who believe that herbal supplements are safe. Here’s the truth about kratom and it’s nothing short of controversial.
Where Did the Kratom Following Come From?
It turns out that kratom has been around for centuries and in widespread, accepted use throughout Southeast Asia. Known for its medicinal properties that help alleviate pain and bring about euphoric sensations, kratom was and still is sought after to help the “working man’s” (and woman’s) physical ailments often felt from manual labor.
Kratom comes from the coffee family and is grown wild in the countries of Thailand, Indonesia, New Guinea, the Philippines and Malaysia among others. Workers would make a tea from its leaves or chop it up and use as a chew. The two active ingredients of the substance that produce drug-like effects are the alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Depending on the person and the amount ingested, kratom can induce a pick-me-up from its stimulant qualities. (Remember it is from the coffee family of plants.) However, in large doses, it can also bring about pain relief, sedative-like responses and feelings of euphoria – much like prescription pain pills and heroin provide.
Both Malaysia and Thailand eventually banned kratom within their countries – in 2003 and 1943 respectively.
Opioid Epidemic Boosted Kratom Popularity
Once it became overwhelming obvious to our federal government that something had to be done to help curb the epidemic of prescription opioid use and subsequent overdoses (what took them so long), people had to turn to alternative forms of relief. For some, this meant doing something they never thought they would do – seek out heroin on the streets, further driving the opioid crisis deeper into communities.
Even people who admitted to their drug problem and sought to overcome addiction found that the path to sobriety was wrought with unmanageable pain and suffering, leading them to relapse instead. Kratom, often found in powders and capsules, offers an alternative to opioid addiction relapse by providing similar relief to what the illicit drugs provide.
But the controversy lies in determining exactly what kratom is: medicinal, medication-assisted treatment for addiction recovery, holistic practice or recreational use?
Nutraceuticals Aren’t Regulated by the FDA
Just because a product is borne from nature, has organic properties or is known as herbal doesn’t always mean it’s safe. The same can be said about kratom. But this supplement falls into a category of products that keeps the Food and Drug Administration up at night.
Many wellness products and herbal supplements fall into what’s known as nutraceuticals. I have worked for many such companies that manufacture vitamins, nutritional drinks and liquid shots that promise pain relief, anti-inflammatory benefits and stress relief. They can promise a lot but never guarantee anything. In fact, nutraceutical companies cannot use testimonials from users that claim the products provide any benefit. Because kratom is not classified as a pharmaceutical drug, the FDA doesn’t monitor it the same way it would oxycodone, for example. But that could change, sooner than later.
2018 Salmonella Outbreak from Kratom Could be the Tipping Point
After numerous attempts to reach representatives from Triangle Pharmanaturals LLC in Las Vegas, Nevada, the FDA issued a mandatory recall of multiple kratom-based products that the company carried due to instances of salmonella cases from their use.
As I write this, I decided to check out their website only to find that it appears as a lead generation site or referral list to other companies. After further investigating, it seems that Triangle Pharmanaturals in a “consulting firm” though no one is sure what that means. Moreover, the website is indicative of shady practices in the business of kratom as it’s difficult to know where the tainted products truly originated.
This brings up another point of concern: if we don’t know where kratom products come from, do we really know what’s in it?
U.S. DEA Wants to Make Kratom a Schedule 1 Drug
More concerns are growing around kratom. With many people touting the similarities to opioids (without the fatal risks), kratom has gotten the ill-attention of the DEA. In 2016, attempts were made to ban the substance but the efforts came up short. However, some U.S. states have their own bans in place: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Vermont.
The reasons behind the push to put kratom in the classification of a Schedule 1 drug are because of its psychotropic qualities and propensity for codependency. In addition, as an herbal supplement, it cannot be regulated; therefore, leaving room for anyone to get a hold of kratom and reformulate it with who knows what.
Once kratom hits our borders, it’s been found that one of the key, active ingredients 7-hydroxymitragynine is far more potent than what comes from overseas – 13 times stronger than morphine (milligram for milligram).
And one more thing. The 1 million people in Thailand who were surveyed and admitted using kratom in 2008, some geographic areas reported that 70 percent of the men used kratom every day. In another study out of Malaysia, participants were struggling with opioid addiction and as a measure to stay clean from it, they used kratom. Unfortunately, when these same people tried to stop using kratom, only 22 percent were successful.
While the information above provides compelling reasons for changing how we classify kratom, perhaps the most eyebrow-raising one is it’s use as a medication-assisted treatment in getting off harder substances. Although it isn’t recognized as such by our laws or governing medical agencies, many people are using kratom as a substitute for other drugs to help them from relapse to alcohol, heroin, prescription pain pills and other drugs. This practice is similar to marijuana use as a transference from more harmful substances. The government isn’t fond of marijuana as medicine either. And we’re seeing more and more people seeking help for marijuana addiction
Reach Out and Ask Us About Kratom Addiction and How to Break Free
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Arizona Addiction Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 888-512-1705.
Authored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.