For kratom advocates, public health experts and addiction specialists, watching FDA’s continuing anti-kratom efforts feels like watching a fire truck race by raging high-rise fires to fine someone for watering their lawn.
2020 was the deadliest year in American history for lethal drug overdoses, with a record high 93,331 deaths. Leading physicians and substance abuse experts directly link this tragedy, in part, to FDA’s failure to properly understand, screen and regulate highly addictive opioid medications. Yet in response to this grim landmark, FDA is apparently pursuing a global ban on kratom, a botanical supplement that’s been used as a pain remedy for centuries.
Make it make sense.
As a supplement manufacturer who’s made products for kratom brands, I know we need regulatory bodies to protect the public. No one wants to return to the days where blindness-inducing lash enhancers or mercury-loaded skin creams filled American drugstore shelves. But FDA’s current approach to kratom does not protect us. On the contrary, experts are warning FDA’s efforts to ban kratom could potentially increase opioid addictions, overdoses and deaths because millions of Americans currently lean on kratom to manage such conditions as chronic pain and addiction.
An estimated 10 to 16 million Americans currently use kratom for various health reasons. In a 2016 Pain News Network survey of more than 6,400 kratom consumers, more than half said they used kratom for pain relief, while others used it to manage anxiety, opioid withdrawal, depression and alcoholism. A full 90 percent said kratom was “very effective” in treating their medical condition or pain.
In 2016, former New York State Senator David Carlucci was so concerned about the supposed dangers of kratom that he actually introduced legislation to ban its sale in his state. But he changed his mind after he was flooded with comments from thousands of people about how kratom had changed and even saved their lives. “I came to see kratom as a form of harm reduction,” Carlucci reflected via email to me, “essential to regulate so that it can be bought and consumed safely.”
As assistant law professor Mason Marks noted in STAT, kratom actually “fills an important niche in the public health ecosystem….If the FDA secures a global kratom ban, countless people could die by suicide and unintentional overdose.” Why, in the midst of a devastating overdose crisis (which itself is partly rooted in an epidemic of pain) …….