April 6, 2017 at 5:00 am ET
Last fall, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration served a 30-day notice of a plan to put kratom, a botanical supplement in the coffee family, in the same category as heroin and LSD. The DEA was not prepared for the resulting massive public outcry over what amounted to a de facto ban on a product that three-five million Americans consume responsibly. Even worse, the federal drug agency ignored the fact that there was no real evidence of a kratom-related health emergency.
The backlash against the DEA was unprecedented. A petition to the White House attracted more than 140,000 signatures, a major protest was held in Washington, D.C., and when the DEA backpedaled and allowed for a public comment period, it was deluged in late 2016 with feedback from more than 23,000 Americans — more than 99 percent of whom opposed the scheduling of kratom.
But kratom — a supplement that has personally given me a new lease on life after I started battling chronic illness and became officially disabled in 2012 — remains under a cloud today and could still face a crackdown instigated by the DEA or the Food and Drug Administration. Recently, 26,000 Americans petitioned President Donald Trump to put an end to the “regulatory overkill” threatening kratom, but that may not be enough to stop the DEA and FDA from moving forward.
What could — and should — stop the DEA and FDA from proceeding is the lack of a public health crisis related to kratom. While heroin and prescription painkiller overdose deaths are a tragic and large-scale scourge imposed on America, the DEA was forced to go to considerable lengths to scrape together even the faintest pretense of a “kratom epidemic”.
How do we know that any such claim about kratom is a hoax?
The American Kratom Association asked Dr. Jack Henningfield of Johns Hopkins University, one of the world’s leading experts on drug abuse and addiction to undertake a close examination of kratom. He found that that there is “insufficient evidence” for the U.S. DEA to ban or otherwise restrict the coffee-like plant kratom under the Controlled Substances Act.
Here is what the Henningfield analysis and related commentary from AKA concluded:
So, what do we really know about kratom?
Kratom is a natural botanical supplement safely consumed by millions of Americans daily. I am one of those people. Like caffeine when used responsibly, kratom is enjoyable, safe, rarely associated with any serious adverse effects, and not prone to serious abuse. Kratom simply does not pose an imminent threat to the public health. Rather, kratom is more reasonably characterized as a dietary supplement, and could be regulated as such by the FDA.
Reasonable oversight — not regulatory overkill — is all that is needed when it comes to the coffee-like supplement kratom, which has helped me, and hundreds of thousands of other Americans, gain a new lease on life.
Susan Ash is the director and founder of the American Kratom Association.
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