Kratom in the Spotlight
It is possible that you had not heard about kratom until the recent controversies about its legality in the United States. Despite little evidence regarding its harmful effects, the DEA recently announced that it would be placing kratom on its schedule 1 list of banned substances alongside opiates like heroin.
Public and expert outcry has seen the agency delay its decision regarding kratom and for now, it is still legal in the US. That is not the case in many countries including countries where the plant grows like Thailand and Malaysia.
What is Kratom?
Kratom known botanically as Mitragyna speciosa is an evergreen tree which is part of the coffee family. It is native to parts of Southeast Asia including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar.
The leaves of the tree are used for medicinal and stimulant purposes. For thousands of years, people in Southeast Asia have used the leaves as a drug. It is quite unique in that it has very different effects depending on the dose taken.
In high doses, it acts as a sedative whereas taken in low doses, it has a stimulant effect. Traditionally, farmers in this part of the world have chewed on the leaves to give them a boost of energy but it is also used by some a recreational drug.
Other uses of kratom include treating arthritis, diarrhea and as a means to overcome opiate addiction.
How is Kratom taken?
Traditionally in areas where kratom is grown, the leaves are simply chewed fresh. They can also be chewed after drying but because they have a tough texture, many people prefer to crush the dried leaves into a powder which makes swallowing them easier.
When powdered, kratom is often mixed into water or fruit juice and drunk. Other methods of taking powdered kratom include mixing it with yogurt or flavored milk in order to mask the flavor.
Kratom is also available in capsule form, made into teas or even smoked although smoking is not considered to be a practical delivery method. Some people mix it into alcoholic beverages while it can also be mixed with another herbal tea and sweetened with honey or sugar.
What effects you can expect from Kratom
As we have already mentioned, kratom is quite unique in that a low dose usually has a mildly stimulating effect while high doses tend to have a sedative effect. The reason for this is that the active alkaloids in the leaf have both sedative and stimulant abilities.
The way in which these alkaloids affect a user depends on dosage and the individual differences of the users. Some people report that the effect resembles opiate drugs probably because the alkaloids act as opiate receptors.
While there are concerns regarding its addictive qualities, kratom does not seem to possess the addictive qualities of opiate medications and drugs. This explains why kratom is used by so many people as a natural way to overcome addiction to opiates.
When kratom is taken in a moderate dose, it usually has a stimulant effect. It can increase alertness and focus, helps with motivation and improves the ability to carry out dificult, physical work. It can improve mood and makes some users more sociable and talkative. Despite its ability to improve physical ability, it is considered more to be more a cognitive form of stimulant.
At the higher doses to achieve a sedative effect, kratom can have a number of effects. It can help you to feel more calm and relaxed, improve feelings of general wellbeing and reduce sensitivity to pain. A number of potential side effects have been reported including sweating, itching and nausea. Some people say that the nausea usually subsides if you relax and lay down for a while.
Potential Benefits of Kratom
The recent controversy in the US regarding placing kratom on its list of banned substances has drawn a huge amount of criticism from politicians, scientists and users. The benefits of kratom are currently being studied by several universities and users claim to experience certain benefits.
If we leave aside recreational use, the main reasons for using kratom are as a natural pain killer and to help overcome addiction to dangerous opiates like heroin.
1) Kratom for Pain Relief
According to experts, kratom has excellent analgesic properties. It is considered to be one of the best natural pain killers available. Many users of kratom feel that it can ease pain associated with arthritis, fibromyalgia and various other illnesses.
2) Kratom to Treat Opiate Addiction
Kratom was traditionally uses in Thailand to treat opiate addiction. In fact, many people believe that it was banned by the Thai Government over 70 years ago because it was so successful at weening people of a habit which made a lot of money for the Government.
Opiate addiction is an increasing concern. We are not only talking about recreational drug addicts who need help but also people who have become addicted to prescription medications. Kratom is considered by many to be of great help in overcoming these addictions.
Kratom contains alkaloids which act in a similar way to opiate receptors in other drugs. Because of this, it is seen as a suitable alternative to overcome withdrawal symptoms.
The Recent Controversy Surrounding Kratom in The US
In late August of 2016 the DEA announced that it would place kratom on its list of banned substances as a schedule 1 drug. The reason given was that kratom caused an ‘imminent hazard to public safety’.
By doing this, the DEA is putting kratom on the same level as heroin and higher up than extremely addictive and harmful drugs like meth and cocaine which are included as schedule 2 substances.
But what exactly is the hazard to public safety that the DEA seems to be so concerned about?
Many people who use kratom do not consider it to be an especially powerful drug comparing its effects to caffeine or even small amounts of alcohol. Very few people suggest that it can make you ‘high’ as such.
Many people suggest that it can make you a little happier, a little more peppy and a little more relaxed. Kratom seems to be in a similar category to countless other medicinal herbs like kava, St. John’s Wort and valerian root.
Despite the fact that it stimulates the opioid receptors, kratom is not an opioid and to categorize it along with people who shoot up heroin seems incredible. There have been roughly 20 deaths over recent years attributed to the use of kratom but those deaths are believed to have been caused by contamination with other drugs.
The national Institute on drug Abuse has noted that commercial kratom is sometimes laced with other dangerous compounds which have caused several deaths. When you consider that in the United States alone, some 88,000 deaths each year can be linked with alcohol and nearly 30,000 deaths are caused by opiate overdose, it puts the position into a bit more perspective.
Is Kratom Addictive?
If you use kratom regularly, then it can become addictive but then again so can coffee, nicotine and playing online pool. If it is not used regularly, it is highly unlikely to become habit forming though people using it to overcome opiate addiction are ore at risk of developing a habit.
Despite announcing that it would be putting kratom on its banned substance list by September 30th 2016, at the time of writing, it has delayed its decision.
This delay follows vociferous criticism from several members of Congress, kratom researchers and users. A letter written by Senator Orrin Hatch which was co-signed by 8 other senators asked for evidence that kratom posed a public health threat.
The DEA has said that despite the delay, the schedule was still on track.
I guess we are in the wait and see stage.
Stay tuned for more developments.
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