Posted on May 19, 2019, 4 p.m.
The Kratom tree finds itself in the midst of some controversy with some people hailing it as a breakthrough treatment while others are insisting it is a dangerous drug.
Leaves from the plant have been long used for pain relief in traditional medicines, and it has been gaining popularity around the globe. It comes from the coffee family, but it’s opioid compounds are suggested by some to possibly exacerbate the opioid epidemic while other suggest that it can help to alleviate it.
Kratom can have similar effects to opioids and stimulants as when its compounds interact with the brain’s opioid receptors it can cause pleasure, sedation, bursts of energy, and pain reduction. This is a natural substance, but it is suggested to carry risks of death and addiction. Kratom has been linked to dozens of deaths in the USA, although nothing near the number caused by traditional opioids.
Around 5 million Americans are estimated to be taking kratom, some of the reported negative health effects can include nausea, sweating, dry mouth, itching, constipation, hallucinations, loss of appetite, increased urination, seizures, and psychosis.
Kratom is getting a mixed reception both where it is grown and used, with those that grow it saying just as opioids if used accordingly it is safe and effective, while regulators are taking a different view.
Currently legal in 43 American states, some chew or smoke the kratom leaves, and it is often sold as powders, pills, or sometimes it is used to formulate bars and beverages. There is an alert issued on the plant, meaning that shipments can be confiscated as they enter the country and the FDA is considering stricter restrictions.
Most experts do not dispute the potential benefits to some of its more positive characteristics, but they note a lack of research meaning that beneficial effects are not yet proven. Many of the deaths linked to kratom have also involved use of other substances as well, but there are reports of adulterated kratom products that are very dangerous such as when mixed/cut with morphine and hydrocodone, some kratom has been found to contain bacteria, pesticides, and heavy metals. Kratom can also interact with prescription drugs in unknown ways.
The situation brings to mind the similar controversy around medical marijuana and CBDs which were once illegal in every way, shape in form in the USA, and now is being legalized across the nation as it has been proven to be relatively safe and effective in treating pain and a variety of medical conditions despite all the falsehoods and propaganda against it.
Could kratom prove to be just as valuable, possibly, but just as medical marijuana and CBDs it will have to wait, as currently there is not enough known about it to breakthrough the stigma. No one doubts that opioids pushed by big pharma are bad, kratom may possibly be better, but it needs to be shown by a much larger body of scientific evidence. Currently safer treatments like CBDs are working for many people, it took awhile to get there, kratom will now have to walk down that path too.
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