Kratom seizure fuels debate over legality
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01-04-17 Category: Advocacy, Medicine, Substance Abuse


Kratom seizure fuels debate over legality

Last August, the U.S. Marshals Service seized a sizeable quantity of products containing kratom from a California company. The company, Nature Therapeutics, marketed the product as a salve for diarrhea and a host of other ailments. Officers acting under orders from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seized the product and shut down the company’s operation because kratom, though legal under federal and state law, has not received FDA approval as a medicinal product. All of which may lead the average reader to ask, “What is kratom, anyway?”

Stimulant and sedative

Kratom is a chewable, meaning, people chew its leaves to derive its benefits. The kratom tree grows in Southeast Asia. With the scientific name of Mitragyna speciosa, it is a member of the coffee family. For years, people in the region have chewed kratom leaves to relieve a variety of ailments, including diarrhea, aches and pains, and even addiction. Kratom also functions as an aphrodisiac. In the West, companies like Nature Therapeutics sell it in powder or liquid form.

When people ingest kratom, they first experience a mild stimulus accompanied by euphoria. But taken in greater amounts, Kratom becomes a sedative. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes Kratom has more serious side effects than mere drowsiness. These include

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Psychotic symptoms

The NIDA reports commercial production of kratom occasionally includes other ingredients that have that have caused death. Prolonged use of kratom can lead to addiction.

Support for kratom

The mission of the American Kratom Association (AKA) is to debunk the scientific and anecdotal evidence that Kratom is dangerous. On its website, the AKA lists its five goals, which are:

  • Support consumers. The AKA wants the needs of consumers to take priority over those of the FDA and politicians
  • Educate. The Association wants to debunk kratom myths and demonstrate to the public and to anyone else the beneficial properties of the drug
  • Amplify. AKA claims to represent thousands of Americans, each with a voice. The Association wants these voices to be heard
  • Global awareness. Present to the world unbiased research so each country can make an informed decision regarding kratom legislation
  • Protect natural resources. The AKA supports responsible cultivation and harvesting techniques. It considers kratom a natural resource; as such, it must be protected.

In spite of AKA’s advocacy, kratom is still a long way away from becoming mainstream.

The Drug Enforcement Agency wades in

In the same month as the U.S. Marshals raid, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced that it would schedule kratom as a Schedule 1 drug of no medicinal value. However, in October the agency delayed that classification due to backlash from kratom supporters and decided to wait to hear the definitive word on kratom’s future from the FDA.

While the potential benefits of kratom are still being debated, Sovereign Health of California recognizes that any drug can be damaging when abused.

Sovereign Health of California treats patients who abuse kratom or any other drug as well as any co-occurring mental disorders. Call our 24/7 helpline to learn more about our programs.

About the author:

Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at

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