The Federal Drug Administration seeks public comments about kratom, a Southeast Asian tropical plant that is not currently illegal but can have “opioid like” effects.

Kratom is legal and can be purchased in the United States as a dietary supplement. It’s often used as an energy boost, mood booster, pain reliever, or as a mood enhancer. Higher doses of kratom can cause sedation or pleasure due to its affinity with opioid receptors.

There is not enough evidence to support the claims of safety and effectiveness, so kratom advocates are waging a war against federal agencies that have been trying to regulate or ban the plant.

Is Kratom Harmful?

The National Poison Data System data shows that between 2011 and 2017, 11 deaths were linked to kratom mixed with other drugs. Only two were related to pure kratom.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that many of the deaths associated with kratom use were caused by adulterated products.

These data would indicate that regulation of kratom products may be more effective than prohibition in reducing kratom-related deaths.

Although no conclusive evidence is available, there are anecdotal accounts that kratom can be used as an herbal treatment to treat withdrawal symptoms and cravings related to opioid addiction.

The American Kratom Association is an advocacy group for the herb’s use. According to them, kratom can be used safely as an herbal supplement to relieve pain or to improve mood and focus.

Kratom may have opioid-like effects, partially binding to opioid receptors. However, the association’s website states that the herb doesn’t suppress the respiratory system which can be the primary cause for overdoses.

International Ban on Kratom

According to the American Kratom Association (AKA), the FDA has unfairly stigmatized kratom over the past nine years, spreading inaccurate, distorted and sometimes completely false information.

An animal study in 2018 found that kratom has “no abuse potential” and lowers rats’ morphine intake. NIDA funded a follow-up study that found kratom to be a viable treatment for opioid abuse.

The plant is legal. However, the American Kratom Association established labeling programs and manufacturing practices to help regulate online kratom products.

You can submit comments until August 9, 2021. Six other substances are also included in the call for comments, including synthetic opioids or synthetic cannabinoids.

A WHO expert committee will review whether information provided during the review period might justify the scheduling. However, kratom remains in a prereview period. This means that the international body is still conducting preliminary analysis and should not decide whether the substance’s control status should be altered.