In the past months, kratom has been subject to controversy, especially due to the smear campaign of the FDA against the herb. If you have followed the news, you probably know that the FDA conducted an analysis on kratom which stated that the herb is an opioid. Additionally, the FDA attributed a number of deaths to kratom. However, this question has been contradicted later by scientists and advocates.
But, despite the FDA’s efforts to schedule kratom under the CSA, to ban it at the federal level, the herb still remains legal in most of the US. Moreover, many users and advocates have spoken to defend their right to access kratom, and scientists have publicly spoken in its favor.
But, could kratom be scheduled as an illegal substance under the CSA? Back in 2016, the American Kratom Association commissioned Pinney Associates to develop an independent kratom 8-factor analysis. Keep reading to see a brief summary of the report.
Kratom 8-Factor Analysis Summary
Before any substance can be scheduled, the Controlled Substance Act requires that an 8 Factor Analysis is conducted. As you may have guessed by its name, this report studies 8 different factors to determinate the substance’s potential for abuse.
Let’s see a summary of the independent 8 Factor Analysis conducted on kratom below.
Factor 1: Kratom Actual or Relative Potential of Abuse
The report states that kratom has been traditionally used in South East Asia to enhance and sustain occupational work, and in some cases, even to enable it. Additionally, people used it socially with their family and friends. But in no case, kratom was used to withdraw from work or social obligations. Mostly, people consumed kratom to improve mood, well-being, sustain labor and for its therapeutic and beneficial properties. Hence, the report compares the motivation to take kratom to that of coffee or tea.
On the other hand, independent surveys have found that the main reasons to use kratom in the US include pain-relief, as well as to ease anxiety and improve energy. Additionally, many users want to reduce their prescription and over-the-counter medicines intake with kratom.
Finally, the report states that although kratom can develop dependence, it is difficult to develop an addiction to the herb under today’s definition of the term. According to the generally accepted definition, addiction characteristics include:
- impaired control over drug use
- compulsive use of the substance
- continued use despite harm
Finally, excessive amounts of kratom are not only not rewarding but can provoke unpleasant effects. For this reason, users won’t typically exceed the dosage.
Factor 2: Scientific Evidence of Kratom’s Pharmacological Effect
Studies have found that Mitragyna speciosa and other kratom components can have effects on the mu receptors of the brain. At the same time, studies show that kratom can produce pain relief effects without the respiratory depression that opioids can cause.
On the other hand, some studies performed in rodents have shown that kratom has analgesic properties.
Factor 3: The State of Current Scientific Knowledge Regarding Kratom
Contrary to opioids, kratom users typically consume the plant by ingesting it. And there aren’t any reports of people injecting, smoking or snorting kratom. Moreover, in order to feel kratom’s effects by using these methods of consumption, a large amount of the crushed leaves will be needed. So, these would be very inefficient ways of consumption. Additionally, kratom’s effects are too mild for people who are heavy drug abusers.
Regarding how kratom works in the system, the onset of the effects typically happens after 10-20 minutes, although full effects will happen 30-60 minutes after ingestion. The effects can last about 5-7 hours.
Low to moderate doses of 1-5 gr will typically produce stimulant effects. On the other hand, a a dose of 5-15 gr producess pain relieving as well as opioid withdrawal relieving effects. However, doses exceeding 15 gr can provoke more unpleasant effects such as dizziness, stupor, and nausea.
Factor 4: History of Kratom and Current Pattern of Abuse
Although it is not clear how kratom consumption started in the US, its use increased in early 2000. And there were more than 10,000 kratom vendors in the country in 2016. Typically, users consume kratom by preparing teas with the leaf material of the plant. Additionally, some consumers add lemon juice or other acids to facilitate extraction of the alkaloids. And, due to the bitter taste of the plant, many use sweeteners to mask the flavor. Moreover, kratom’s bad taste makes it unappealing to children.
In South East Asia, kratom users typically chew its leaves to feel its effects. All these methods of consumption differ from opioids. Opioids methods of consumption include injecting, snorting and smoking.
Factor 5: The Scope, Duration, and Significance of Abuse
There appears to be little kratom abuse in the US. Additionally, the potential benefits of kratom outweigh the possible risks, which are very low in comparison to opioids.
On the other hand, after monitoring the internet regarding kratom, the report finds that people who seek to “get high” must consume extremely high amounts of kratom to experience that effect. Additionally, many individuals find that kratom’s effects are somehow disappointing for this purpose.
Finally, a survey from The Pain Network reports that the main reasons for kratom use are:
- Pain relief (51.34%)
- Anxiety (14.15%)
- Opioid addiction (9.24%)
- Depression (8.83%)
And other surveys have found that the main reasons to use kratom include pain relief, anxiety, depression as well as to reduce or eliminate opiate use.
Finally, most kratom users find that kratom is not a harmful product and that a potential ban would have a negative impact on their lives.
Factor 6: What Risk, If Any, There Is to Public Health
The FDA, CDC and the Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted a project between 2004 and 2013 to research the number of visits for adverse events relating to dietary supplements. Although kratom has been present in the market since early 2000, none of the visits were related to the herb. Moreover, a study from 2015 concludes that there are no deaths from kratom overdose alone.
On the other hand, other studies conclude that a potential ban on kratom would turn users to the black market. And, if this happens, it is likely that many kratom products will be adulterated with other substances.
Factor 7: Kratom’s Psychic or Physiological Dependence Liability
Studies report that discontinuation of kratom can have withdrawal symptoms, such as hostility, inability to work, tearing, muscle or bone pain, etc. Additionally, evidence suggests that after quitting kratom, users can feel withdrawal symptoms similar to those of opioids, but much weaker. However, there are not enough studies on this matter.
Factor 8: Whether Kratom Is an Immediate Precursor of a Substance Already Controlled Under This Subchapter
None of the kratom’s components are precursors of any controlled substance.
The authors of the report don’t recommend a kratom ban. The reason for this is that kratom has a very low potential for abuse, low dependence liability and it doesn’t pose a risk to public health.