Here we go again. What now? Kratom.

February 8, 2018

-Kelly Merrill
Here we go again.
So, the numbers you’ve been waiting for…FDA announced in February that the number of deaths involving Kratom worldwide…in over 5 years…has jumped from 36 to 44.  FDA is particularly concerned about one (yes, you read that right.  “1”) death that did NOT involve multiple substances.
One of my favorite examples of a “Kratom-related death” deserves a Darwin Award.  Remember those?  Let’s bring them back for the individual who who fell out a second story window while intoxicated with other substances (and Kratom) and did not seek medical attention.  Predictably, they died.
By contrast, acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, available over-the-counter and perceived as “safe,” is responsible for 78,000 cases of poisoning, 33,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths…per…year.  And it took 32 years for FDA to simply put a warning label on products containing the drug; the one their own expert advisory committee recommended decades earlier.
And I promise you this. THOSE numbers, the death and destruction caused by acetaminophen, are going to go way up since fear and ignorance have radically changed the landscape of medicine by demonizing pain-relieving opioids. The general public is under the erroneous assumption that acetaminophen is safe. Combine that with lack of effective pain control and we’re going to see a banner year. Another lethal”unintended consequence” of poorly conceived, misinformed public health policies; another pile of bodies.
One hundred forty-four thousand (144,000) people were represented in the 23,000 comments submitted to the DEA the last time they tried to schedule Kratom as a dangerous drug; 99.1% of comments were overwhelmingly favorable regarding use of the crushed leaf. Because of the overwhelmingly positive response, DEA ditched the pursuit, or so we thought.
Instead, DEA instituted a “shadow campaign” against the leaf in the year since and stepped up their attack by getting Scott Gottlieb, FDA’s Commissioner, on board. Gottlieb used to work for the company who had a patent on Kratom and was compensated handsomely…to the tune of over $400,000.
The only similarity between Kratom and pharmaceutical opioids is that they work on the same receptors. People who take Kratom in a regular basis aren’t high or impaired in any way, reagardless of whether they suffer pain or substance use disorder.  Patients may experience some constipation; but not respiratory depression, the reason opioids are dangerous at all.
It DOES, however, kill pain, elevate mood and mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
But I’m biased. Adding Kratom to my daily regimen of medications is the reason I’m here today, functional and writing this piece. I was bed- or house-bound for over 15 years. Kratom gave me back some semblance of a life. And gave my son back his mother.
Many of us would like to see Kratom regulated as a dietary supplement under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. It’s a leaf. It’s a miraculous and beautiful leaf that has given millions back their lives.
If FDA is interested in protecting the public health, perhaps they should start with something that’s actually toxic.

 

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