Last year, you may have heard of a controversial decision in which the DEA decided to abstain from scheduling the plant Kratom as a Schedule 1 drug, which would have placed it along the lines of marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine. The decision was unprecedented, as the DEA has never before in history reversed a decision to classify a drug as Schedule 1. Furthermore, 46 Congress members wrote a petition to the DEA, urging them to reconsider their decision to ban Kratom. Constituents were flooding the phone lines, urging law makers to stand against what they considered a power driven, poorly thought out decision.

So what is it about this drug called Kratom that has so many up in arms on both sides? Why is everyone from recovering addicts to those suffering with chronic pain urging the DEA to keep Kratom legal? Here’s what we know so far.

1.Kratom is a plant derived from the coffee family, not the opiate family. Kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, is native to Southeast Asia, and belongs to a tree of coffee plants. It is mistakenly believed by some to be an opiate, but alkaloids within the plant act on similar receptors in the brain as opiates do. In low doses, it acts as a mild stimulant. In large doses, it can be somewhat sedating, and provide small amounts of euphoria within users. Many patients take Kratom in larger doses to combat chronic pain and fatigue. Users also view Kratom as a safer, less addictive alterative for opioid addiction relief, pain relief, and low energy relief.

2.Kratom is used by opioid addicts to get off medications, prevent relapse, and fulfill a psychological need. Kratom, while not an opiate, act on similar receptors in the brain. Though studies are still being done on how Kratom works to cure drug addiction, the facts are in and they are mind-boggling. Numerous ex-addicts have reported taking Kratom to get off harder drugs such as heroin, prescription painkillers, and suboxone. They reported minimal withdrawal symptoms and a less drugged out feeling from Kratom than they would receive from their typical narcotics. Furthermore, when many addicts tried to get off Kratom, they reported that physical withdrawal symptoms were mild in comparison, and psychological withdrawal symptoms were negligible.

These addicts consider Kratom as a part of a maintenance program, similar to the more mainstreamed methadone and suboxone programs. While Kratom may provide a mild, opiate like effect, it is not enough to hurt someone, or expensive enough to financially ruin someone, or addictive enough to cause someone to go into terrible withdrawals from it. Supporters of Kratom exclaim that the drug saved their lives from pursuing more poignant drug therapies such as the methadone clinic or suboxone.

3.Critics claim that the use of Kratom is trading in one addiction for another. Kratom does have addictive qualities. Though the potential for abuse and addiction are smaller than they would be for other narcotics, it is definitely a factor to consider when trying Kratom for the first time. Drugabuse.com states that, “Years of Kratom have proved to show insomnia, dry mouth, skin darkening, weight loss, frequent urination, and constipation. Kratom is physically addictive too. The same properties that make it a potential detox aid also make it a potential addiction.”

4.The DEA has cited deaths caused by Kratom, reiterated that is dangerous, and is only postponing the decision to ban the drug while receiving public feedback from the American people. According to the DEA statistics, there have been 15 Kratom related deaths in recent years. Advocates of Kratom state that these numbers are misleading. 14 of the people who died in these instances had other substances in their body besides Kratom. Furthermore, the 15th person who passed away had a preexisting condition, which may or may not have attributed to his death. In contrast, there have been 33,000 opioid related deaths in 2015 alone. Many physicians gave many of these prescriptions out.

5. We advise opiate addicts to move with caution before taking Kratom. Though Footprints does not take one position or another on medicinal resources for combating serious addiction problems, we caution addicts to research Kratom and speak to their doctors, or a naturalist, before deciding to partake in it. If Kratom takes away the withdrawal symptoms that are so painful, then it may provide some much needed opiate withdrawal support that should be further researched by the medical community.

However, the question comes back to, “why does it work so well?” If a drug, be it natural or not, works so well to reduce physical and mental symptoms, then there comes a time when one must ask if the drug itself is too good to be true. Is it worth becoming potentially addicted to another substance in order to stay off of a worse substance? Only the recovering addict, their sponsor, a doctor, and a counselor are qualified to answer these important questions.

Are you struggling with an addiction to narcotic painkillers, heroin, or other opiate related drugs? Please contact Linda Rose at Footprints Behavioral Health today. Call 949-558-4723 and start your roadmap towards recovery now.