Kratom is a drug derived from the leaves of Mitragyna speciosa trees that has pain-relieving and in some cases, sedative effects. At low concentrations, it acts like coffee, in that it gives a person energy, but at higher concentrations it acts like opioids, relieving pain and causing someone to feel tired rather than energetic. If taken too often or at increasing concentrations, a person can become tolerant to kratom. This occurs when they no longer feel its effects when taking the same dose and must increase their dose in order to feel anything from using it.
Though not approved for any medical use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some people use kratom for chronic pain. Others use it to aid in relieving the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, given its similar effects to opioids. People who use kratom may experience a “high” or euphoric effect when kratom is taken at higher concentrations. Due to this effect and the fact that people can become tolerant to it, kratom has the potential to be addictive.
Kratom is legal in the United States in that it is not federally regulated, however, there are several states that have regulations on kratom use and possession.
The Legality of Kratom in the U.S.
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) enforces laws on drugs that are illegal in the U.S. One of the ways they do this is through the controlled substance act, where the DEA uses a drug scheduling classification system to identify drugs with the potential to be addictive. Because of their potential for abuse, these drugs are considered dangerous and are therefore controlled substances. As of 2019, the DEA has not given kratom a schedule classification, however, they have labeled it as a “chemical of concern.”
In 2016, the DEA planned to make kratom a Schedule I drug, meaning that it is highly addictive and has no legal medical uses. It would have put kratom at the same level as heroin and ecstasy. However, there are a large number of people in the United States who had been using kratom for its pain-relieving effects and to combat the symptoms of opioid withdrawal who argues against it. In the end, the DEA decided not to schedule kratom as a controlled substance.
In 2017, the FDA issued a warning on the dangers of kratom after there were a series of overdose deaths involving kratom. However, since then the DEA has not updated the kratom ban and it remains an uncontrolled substance at the federal level.
States Where Kratom Is Illegal
While the federal government has not put regulations on the use and distribution of kratom, some states have. As of 2109, states where kratom is illegal include:
- Rhode Island
States where there is pending legislation to make kratom illegal include:
- New Jersey
- New York
Should Kratom Be Regulated?
Most people argue that kratom should be regulated, given its potential for addiction and the risks of overdosing if too much is taken. The DEA has considered putting regulation on the use of kratom, but backed down after there was outlash by people who use it regularly for pain management or to manage the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. This was in spite of the fact that neither of those uses are approved by the FDA. Those people argued that if used in moderation and in ways to avoid becoming tolerant to it, kratom is one of the best medications for pain and is highly beneficial for people who have chronic pain or are dealing with opioid use disorders.
On the other hand, there are stories of kratom use that show how dangerous it can people. People who have used it long-term or in high amounts have been found to have liver damage, which can be life-threatening. It is also highly dangerous when used in combination with other substances.
Kratom may be especially attractive for use in teens, given that it is easily accessible through companies on the internet. If you or someone you know is experimenting with kratom and feel that you have developed an addiction, the Next Generation Village is here to help. We have comprehensive treatment programs specific to teens that are struggling with a substance use disorder. Contact the Next Generation Village today to speak with a representative about getting the help you need.