Don’t trust the commercials
As I drive around town listening to Coast 93.3, I hear commercials for an “alternative medicine” shop that sells kratom, advertised as a “wellness product” for your “health and happiness.” In one commercial, a customer praises kratom as a pain reliever. But kratom, a powdery substance, is of doubtful medical benefit, can be addictive, and is classified as a “drug of concern” by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Kratom comes from Mitragyna speciosa, a tree in the coffee family native to Southeast Asia. It is a stimulant in low doses, a sedative in high doses, and is also known for its euphoric effects. In August 2016, the DEA announced plans to declare kratom a Schedule I drug, making it illegal. Instead, faced with public opposition, the DEA deferred to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which commenced its own investigation.
In November 2017, the FDA issued an advisory, stating that (1) people were using kratom to self-medicate for pain, anxiety, and depression, and (2) kratom had the effects of a narcotic, including risks of abuse and addiction. In February 2018, the FDA reported that two of the most prevalent compounds in kratom were opioids and that kratom did not serve any medical purpose. Although the FDA did not recommend a ban on kratom, it warned vendors against making fraudulent claims, for example, by advertising that kratom effectively treats arthritis, fibromyalgia, and opioid addiction.
At least 13 countries, six states, and several localities have banned kratom outright. The Department of Defense lists kratom as a “dietary supplement” that is “not allowed.” Similarly, according to the Air Force Medical Service, kratom use violates an Air Force prohibition on intoxicants other than alcohol (A.F. Instr. 44-121).
Yes, the FDA has its critics, especially among kratom users who think they’ve discovered a miracle drug. But others tell horror stories, as rehab centers know only too well. The FDA encourages people with a medical condition to visit a health care professional, not a kratom shop. Simply put, kratom does not always work as advertised.
Robert Lehouck, Mary Esther