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Opioid, opiate, and heroin addiction are increasingly worrying public health concerns here in the United States. Unfortunately, our country’s people struggling with addiction receive less support than castigation, often facing criminal consequences for what amounts to a serious health issue.
This response is neither compassionate nor appropriate. Arresting and incarcerating individuals will do nothing to end their addiction. Sadly, the misguided War on Drugs continues to impact options available to those struggling with addiction. Kratom is a perfect example. Kratom is the colloquial name for the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree. Those living in Southeast Asia have for centuries used the leaves of this plant to brew a stimulating tea. As a member of the coffee family, it is unsurprising that kratom produces an uplifting effect for users in relatively low doses.
People have also begun to realize that kratom can help those struggling both with chronic pain and opioid addiction. Kratom’s active compound, an alkaloid compound called mitragynine, binds to a critical opioid receptor in the human brain. That means that in high doses, it can provide both sleep aid and substantial pain relief.
More significantly, it can help people stave off the worst impact of opioid withdrawal. Considering that cold-turkey withdrawal can prove fatal in some cases and that the pains of withdrawal are often one of the things that keep people with addiction from seeking help, you would think that the federal government would readily embrace a substance that could ease withdrawal and help people move past their addiction.
Predictably, the response by the US federal government has been the opposite. Instead of looking for ways to study the potential uses of kratom and facilitate access for those struggling with addiction recovery, the DEA has attempted several times now to add kratom to the growing list of prohibited substances in the United States. If the DEA had its way, this potentially life-saving plant and its active compounds would become Schedule 1 substances that are illegal to possess, import, grow, and consume.
The only potential legitimate issue that the government would need to address is that kratom can become addictive. Especially for those who use large doses of concentrated mitragynine, the potential for dependency exists. Those acclimated to high doses can experience withdrawal from kratom, although it will still be less severe and life-threatening then opioid or heroin withdrawal.
However, it is worth noting that both nicotine and caffeine cause intense and painful withdrawal symptoms as well. Unlike kratom, which could offer relief to a growing number of American citizens struggling with life-threatening addiction, neither nicotine or caffeine has many medical benefits, although caffeine is a vasodilator which can help some people with migraines.
Those struggling with chronic pain may find that kratom extracts, teas, tinctures, and pills may help relieve that pain, particularly when used in conjunction with medical cannabis. Those struggling with addiction or attempting to help loved ones battling the demons of addiction may find that kratom makes getting off of more dangerous opioid and opiate substances safer. Hopefully, because so much of the public has been made aware of kratom’s potential benefits, the DEA will not succeed in its attempts to prohibit the substance and keep it from the people who would benefit from it.
For previous Ladybud articles about kratom, click here.
Photo Credit: ThorPorre via Wikimedia Commons under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0CC BY 3.0