Kratom is an herbal supplement often used for the treatment of pain. Thousands of people consume it daily instead of prescribed and potentially addictive opioid medication. However, many traditional doctors and health authorities fear its overuse could lead to other, more dangerous issues.

Recently, researchers with John Hopkins University of Medicine surveyed nearly 2,800 people who regularly use kratom. Their findings suggest kratom is not only an effective pain reliever but also has a low risk for addiction. The study essentially contradicts many of the beliefs held by many health agencies and medical professionals that kratom has a high potential for abuse and should be banned.

The study results show a reduction in opioid abuse. Almost 40 percent of survey participants said they use kratom specifically to treat opioid withdrawal and 35 percent of those have not used prescription opioids in over a year.

Outlawing kratom is bad idea, according to John Hopkins researchers. Lead study author Albert Garcia-Romeu, Ph.D., an instructor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, suggests a ban on kratom would push individuals back toward prescription or other harder opioids.

According to survey responses, 1 in 3 participants experienced mild side effects such as upset stomach or constipation. Roughly 10 percent felt some withdrawal symptoms after the kratom wore off.

Thousands of people die each year in the U.S. from opioid overdoses. There were over 47,000 overdose deaths just in 2017 alone. In contrast, less than 100 kratom-related deaths have been reported and the majority of cases involve mixing kratom with other drugs or can be linked to preexisting health conditions.

Currently, kratom is illegal in six states and multiple local communities. In 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency tried to ban kratom nationwide by trying to classify it as a Schedule I drug. However, the agency’s efforts failed.

The Food and Drug Administration has also been trying to ban kratom but has yet to succeed. According to agency officials, kratom does not treat any medical condition and has the potential to be addictive.

As government officials and medical professionals debate the effects of kratom, thousands of users attest to the pain relief benefits provided by this natural herbal supplement. The John Hopkins kratom study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).