Plans by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 drug have been temporarily halted amidst a lawsuit by a group of vendors. The resolution comes after impassioned advocates took to social media, and the scientific community voiced concerns over their ability to further research the plant. The DEA has reconsidered plan, which they made public on August 31, to place kratom into the super-restrictive category after it received more than 2,000 phone calls, most of which were opposed to it. The agency now plans to open up a public comment period where those who have used kratom for medical purposes can share their experiences and relay the plant’s clinical value.
A relative of the coffee plant, kratom has gained increased popularity among those suffering from chronic pain who are trying curtail their opioid or alcohol use. The substance works in a manner similar to opioids (binding to some of the same receptors), but is said to produce a more mild result with none of the side effects. Although the DEA attributes a dozen deaths to kratom over the last two years, those victims had other drugs in their systems at the time of their death. Advocates are describing kratom as a viable alternative to powerful prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone on which many pain patients have come to rely.
The decision to temporarily withdrawal the Schedule 1 designation may represent a more progressive attitude toward drug control and prevention. Once kratom winds up as Schedule 1 drug, access will significantly decrease, even for those who depend on it as part of their regular pain treatment. Many advocates fear that it will suffer a similar legacy to marijuana. In a time in which prescription drug overdose is ravaging the United States population, any and all alternative methods of chronic pain relief are worthy of exploration. That being said, time will tell as to whether or not this drug is as safe and benign as its advocates claim.