When Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin, it pulled out all the marketing stops. Here was a potent pain killer, they said, that worked like morphine, but with a low risk of addiction. It was a breakthrough.
For years, Purdue pushed OxyContin hard… and doctors began prescribing this man-made opioid like candy. As other opioids – synthetic morphine-like drugs – came out, they joined the party.
“Pain clinics” became highly profitable businesses. Though many of them were little more than glorified drug dealers. Walk in with a vague description of pain, walk out a few minutes later with a prescription for opioids.
The only problem? Purdue was wrong. These opioids are highly addictive. And they’ve spawned a whole new drug-dependent generation.
Then came an answer. An Asian herb that could ease withdrawal – and even block pain – but was far safer than the opioids it replaced.
So, of course, the federal government has moved to block it.
What is this herb? And what’s the truth behind the stories? Here’s what you need to know.
New Life for an Ancient Herb
Kratom has been around for centuries. It’s native to Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Herbalists have prescribed kratom tea as a pain reliever for countless generations. It’s also a traditional treatment for opiate withdrawal.
These ancient healers had no way to know how kratom works. They just knew it did. How it works is just this: Compounds in kratom bind to opioid receptors. And has some of the same effects. Like pain relief.
It may also have addictive potential… though experts say it’s far less than opioids and their cousins – opium, heroin, and morphine.
Here’s where kratom may be especially helpful.
Opioids are expensive. The government’s reaction to the opioid crisis has made it harder for addicts to get their hands these drugs. So addicts have been turning to more available – and far cheaper – alternatives… like heroin.
You’ve probably heard the latest horror stories around heroin. It’s cheap, but it’s dangerous. It’s often adulterated. In the last few years, heroin-related deaths have skyrocketed.
In some cases, heroin wasn’t “cut” with fillers – so users overdosed. But many have died because the heroin they bought was cut – with another powerful opioid: fentanyl. Fentanyl is so potent, even small amounts can kill.
For many addicts, kratom is a far safer option. Users say it satisfies the craving for opioids… and helps them kick the habit without the fear of an overdose.
Enter Uncle Sam
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says they have reports of 44 deaths linked to kratom. At least some of these reports are suspect, since other drugs were involved.
Compare that to the 15,500 people who died from heroin overdoses in 2016 alone. Forty-four deaths – and some of those suspect – vs. 15,500 in just one year. It doesn’t take a math genius to see – with up to 5 million kratom users in the U.S. – kratom is far safer.
In the same year heroin overdoses killed 15,500 Americans, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) made a bold move. They announced they would list the active elements in kratom as Schedule 1 drugs.
Luckily, pushback from citizens – and members of Congress – forced the DEA to back off. At least for now. Currently, the DEA lists kratom as a “drug of concern.”
Meanwhile, the FDA used a computer model to “predict” the dangers of the active compounds in kratom. Surprise, surprise! They declared these unique compounds to be opioids.
But are they really?
You Say, “Potato”… Science Says, “B.S.”
Ever the defender of Big Pharma, the FDA seems to have gone over the edge again where kratom is concerned.
At least that’s the opinion of Scott Hemby, an actual scientist who heads High Point University’s Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Hemby has studied the effects of kratom in actual living organisms. And he has a problem with the FDA’s computer model. While he’s too polite to say it, the bottom line is simple: The FDA’s findings are B.S.
The active compounds in kratom bind differently to opioid receptors than heroin or prescription drugs. The effects are “toned down.” Kratom’s addictive potential is actually fairly low.
And because it binds differently, kratom’s potential for overdose deaths is also very low.
CNN reports that many of the emergency room visits linked to kratom, aren’t due to kratom at all.
They cite a University of Florida chemist who studies samples of kratom taken in emergency rooms. He’s found kratom issues are often due to adulteration. ER samples often include morphine or oxycodone – two legal drugs. But drugs with lethal potential.
In other words, much of the governmental hand wringing over kratom may not be due to kratom at all.
So where does this leave us?
If You’ve Considered Using Kratom…
Kratom appears to block pain and release feel-good dopamine – just as opioids do. Anecdotal reports also suggest it can be an effective way to free yourself from opioid addiction.
But there are caveats.
First, there are no established guidelines for dosage. So, unless you know a Southeast Asian herbalist, you’re at the mercy of importers or Internet “experts.”
Second, there’s the adulteration issue. If you plan to buy kratom, only buy from sources you know you can trust. Typically, that means supplement companies with an established reputation.
Finally, is kratom legal where you live?
Kratom is currently legal under federal law, but it’s banned in some states and cities. As of December of 2017, kratom is illegal in these areas…
- Denver, CO
- San Diego, CA
- Sarasota, FL
- Washington, DC
As with so many other effective herbal remedies, the federal government has registered their opposition. But, “When it comes to drugs for cancer,” Scott Hemby noted, “we wouldn’t rely on a computer model to drive policy. People would find that unacceptable.”
Forget its use as a pain reliever. Kratom may be a safer alternative to ease – or even end – addiction to heroin and opioids.
Unfortunately, we may have to drag Uncle Sam, kicking and screaming, all the way.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
“Heroin Overdose Data,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jan 26, 2017.
Kounang, N., “Compounds in herbal supplement kratom are opioids, FDA says,” CNN. Feb 7, 2018.
“What’s Kratom, and Why Are States Banning It?” Governing. Dec 4, 2017.
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