Kratom has attracted quite a lot of attention in the media. Some praise its healing properties and call it a miracle herb. Others label it as a life-threatening kratom drug and advocate for the kratom ban. Each of the sides claims that the other one spreads false claims.
It’s easy to get confused about whom you should listen to.
Especially that kratom is illegal in several countries as well as in specific locations within the USA. Both the FDA and DEA warn against using the kratom drug claiming that it’s an opiate and can cause death.
So, whom should you side with in this debate?
Is kratom an opiate or not?
Is kratom safe? Or should we side with the kratom ban arguments?
Is it a truly dangerous fatal drug or simply a life-saving yet misunderstood miracle herb?
Let’s delve deeper into it and find out.
What Is Kratom?
Kratom, or Mitragyna Speciosa, is a plant from the coffee tree family that’s native to Southeast Asia. It’s rich in alkaloids and has numerous health benefits. Some of the most popular ones include relaxation, increased energy, pain relief, and reduced anxiety and stress. But, these differ according to the dosage and the type of kratom taken.
There are generally four types of kratom: red vein, green vein, white vein and yellow vein. Each has its own unique set of benefits.
Kratom comes in the form of powder, capsule, tea, and extract.
Popular Arguments Against Kratom (and What’s Wrong about Them)
Kratom Drug Is Causing an Increasing Number of Deaths
Some of the FDA’s most arduous arguments against the use of kratom are that it causes addiction, seizures, liver and kidney failure, and even death.
In 2016, it wanted to ban kratom and include it in the Schedule I list. One that’s reserved for only the most dangerous drugs. This would have not only made kratom illegal, but also would have drastically limited the possibility to perform studies on it.
In a press release in early 2018, an FDA representative stated that the kratom drug had claimed 44 lives at that point.
However, the cases presented were rather inconclusive. In most of them, kratom wasn’t the only substance present in the blood of the deceased.
The same occurred in 2019 when the CDC released a report on nearly 100 deaths by kratom. According to postmortem toxicology results, just 7 of the victims had only kratom present in their blood and, even in those cases, the CDC admitted the possible presence of other drugs.
Incomplete and Inaccurate Interpretation of Kratom Death Reports
Instead, these people took kratom together with drugs, alcohol, and prescription medication with clearly stated fatal risks.
Some of the deaths also included homicide, suicide, and falling out of the window after which the person refused medical treatment. Neither one of which had been directly caused by kratom itself. One death was even counted as two because it had been reported twice.
Yet, since kratom was in their blood, the FDA stated it as the main cause of death. (A more detailed report on these deaths and their cause can be found here.)
The FDA also refers to and sometimes includes in the number of kratom drug fatalities nine deaths that occurred in Sweden in 2010. Interestingly though, these deaths weren’t caused by pure kratom. Instead, the deceased took pills that contained kratom laced with synthetic opioids.
So, was kratom the actual cause of these deaths? Or was it something else? Or perhaps kratom was simply a supplement that these people were taking to deal with something very serious and life-threatening, such as clinical depression?
Kratom Is an Opioid
Is kratom an opioid or not is a question that puzzles many. Both kratom and opioids bind with opioid receptors. But, the way each of them interacts with these receptors is different.
When opioids bond with the receptors, they recruit certain proteins in the process. These proteins then regulate signal transduction in the body. Because of this, they are the ones causing respiratory depression and death. The most dangerous opioid side effects.
Is kratom an opioid then?
The answer is no. Kratom does not engage the proteins mentioned above.
As a result, even though the alkaloids in kratom do target the same receptors as opioids do, they themselves are not opioids.
The FDA though states the opposite. They say that after investigations they have concluded that, if kratom acts like an opioid, that it indeed is one.
Kratom Can Cause Salmonella
In April 2018, there was a kratom related salmonella outbreak in the United States. According to the FDA data, 199 people in 41 states fell ill with salmonella after consuming contaminated kratom.
There is no denial of the fact that salmonella can be present in kratom. But, that’s not a strong enough reason for a complete kratom ban.
Salmonella can also be present in poultry, raw meats, eggs, as well as in unpasteurized milk and other products. It causes regular outbreaks. Yet, none of the contaminated products are getting banned. Just the infected batches.
The bigger problem does not lie in the fact that kratom can contain contaminants. But rather in the fact that the US doesn’t properly regulate it. It’s up to each individual seller to ensure that they test their product properly. That they offer high-quality, contaminant-free kratom to its buyers.
It’s easy for the governing institutions to place the blame on kratom. When, in actuality, there would be fewer instances of contaminated and otherwise unsafe kratom if it was regulated just like other herbal supplements available.
Kratom is Unsafe and Ineffective
The Mayo Clinic has an article that states just that. And there are many other sources in the media claiming the same.
According to them, studies on kratom brought up many safety concerns and no clear benefits. Governmental agencies also warn about the dangers that kratom poses to mental health.
Nonetheless, in late 2017, the University of Rochester published a review on kratom studies. It compiled the data from 57 years of international studies. The researchers focused on 13 different studies that collectively examined nearly 30,000 individuals.
Contrary to the claims of the FDA, DEA, and others, this review proves that kratom can indeed be a safer alternative to opioids. It also confirms that kratom can improve the mood and help with anxiety and other issues.
In addition, studies and researches on kratom are limited at this time. Because of that, we are not yet fully aware of the full potential of kratom and the alkaloids present in it. Nor do we know the full scope of the potential risks to properly advise users.
Kratom Is Addictive
Another popular statement about kratom is that it is addictive. More specifically, according to statements by the FDA’s, data keeps showing that kratom is an opioid with strong potential for abuse and attention. Instead of being a cure for opioids, kratom is a gateway to continue the opioid addiction.
A solid reason to list it among the Schedule I drugs, isn’t it?
Yet, in 2016, a group of scientists and doctors conducted an 8-factor study according to the CSA (Controlled Substance Act). They concluded that kratom is not only safe, but also not nearly as potent in terms of abuse, tolerance, and dependence as claimed by the FDA.
As a matter of fact, it is even less addictive than many Schedule IV and V drugs and is also within the rage of many non-scheduled substances. Such as coffee and nasal nicotine spray.
The group has submitted their study to the FDA, but is yet to receive a response.
The FDA has also conducted its own studies which lead to the conclusion that kratom is an opioid. Why such a stark difference? How can two sides come up with radically different results using studies?
Are the FDA’s Studies on the Dangers of Kratom Reliable?
The answer lies in the way these studies were conducted. While the studies mentioned above were done on real people, the FDA has developed a computer program, called PHASE, that predicts the effects of kratom based on an algorithm.
There is a lack of transparency around PHASE. It has been developed in-house and very few details have been released about how it works.
Is it a reliable program or simply a means to confirm a bias?
Andrew Kruegel, a Columbia University chemist who has authored several studies on kratom, points out that the studies conducted by this algorithm are a lot less rigorous than many other studies on kratom.
The FDA also seems to be lumping all substances with opioid properties under the same category. When that isn’t a reliable practice.
Algorithms can be used in medicine, yet they need to be used in combination with other methods to yield accurate results. Because the effects of a substance on the human body depend on many more factors than simply a prediction of patterns.
Ignoring that would mean that the FDA isn’t actually conducting valid studies, but instead finding a way of proving its bias.
What Causes This Debate?
We recently came upon an interesting article. It told about how big pharma is trying to extract the alkaloids found in kratom for medicinal use.
While we can’t claim the validity of this source, this is definitely some food for thought. It is also absolutely plausible.
Think about it. Morphine and codeine are two frequently used pain relief drugs in medicine. Both derive from raw opium and can be further processed into heroin. Which, by the way, is a Schedule I drug.
So, morphine is actual opioid and so is codeine. Yet, they are used in medicine.
Which leads us to think about one thing.
If kratom is truly effective in helping people to feel better yet easily available for purchase from individual vendors, then the pharmaceutical industry is losing out on lots and lots of money.
Wouldn’t that make sense if they’d like to take credit for the benefits of kratom and pocket all that income?
What’s Our Stance on All This?
As you already know, we are fully for people having easy and affordable access to kratom. No one should be denied the right to freely purchase a herbal supplement that is helping them.
Sadly though, we still do not know everything about kratom. There is a need for a greater number of controlled studies on the benefits and risks of kratom use.
That would provide users with the necessary information to make fully informed decisions.
Until then, it all comes down to personal responsibility. Taking adequate doses of kratom, and not mixing it with incompatible substances. Learning about different aspects of kratom, as well as purchasing it from trustworthy and credible vendors to avoid salmonella and other contaminants is also necessary.
Which is what our blog aims to help you with. Empower you with the knowledge you need to stay safe, get the most out of kratom, and make informed decisions.
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What is your stance on this topic? Is kratom dangerous? Are you for the kratom ban? Or, should it be studied in greater detail and be easily accessible in natural form? Feel free to share your thoughts with us.