OK, What’s the Deal with this “Kratom” Stuff?
As an adult American male in my mid-40s, I’ve certainly had experience and exposure to various herbal supplements and plant derivatives in my life – some with hallucinogenic effects, some with stimulant effects, some with euphoric and/or pain relieving effects – and of course, many with no effect whatsoever…lol. I am drawn to this particular issue because I see the potential impacts this supplement can have in tackling one of America’s major epidemics currently underway – our unhealthy relationship as a nation with various Opioid drugs.
First and foremost I’m a fiscal conservative vaper (electronic vaporizer user) – so Government over-regulation and more importantly, over-regulation to benefit special interests and selected donors sticks out to me like a sore thumb. After what the FDA did recently to the emerging tobacco harm reduction marketplace and community (aka, “Vaping”), many of us are hypersensitive to this type of Government overreach on behalf of Big Pharma and/or Big Tobacco…and others.
The 2016 election cycle clearly and presently indicates that the last place on Earth one can find objective journalism is what is known as the mainstream media (“MSM” – aka ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, etc.) – so naturally we’re going to go ahead and avoid them (and their Government/corporate sponsors) whenever and wherever possible. Before we get rolling too quickly, though – there are some hard facts from the Centers From Disease Control about our Opioid epidemic we should review.
Please keep this epidemic (our Government’s choice of word) in mind as we learn about Kratom.
History and Background
So, what is this plant and why are we talking about it? It may help to review a few things that Kratom is not before we discuss what it actually is.
Kratom is NOT
- A drug
- A “Bath Salt”
- An Opioid medication/drug
- Highly addictive
- Dangerous when used responsibly
OK, There are a lot of potential negatives crossed off of many lists there. Each of these I’m sure I’ll be discussing in detail during this series.
Ok, so what is Kratom?
Kratom is known as Mitragyna speciosa to folks with a lot more understanding of Latin and biology than me. As I understand the overall classification of living things, this actually places it within the coffee family of plants. Kratom is native to Asia, and there is definitely direct (much more than anecdotal) evidence that it has been used both as a “traditional remedy” as well as an “herbal supplement” by humans in that area for hundreds of years – I found many reports of human exposure and experience with Kratom for at least 5 centuries. The reports are out there. Tons of them.
Some of this is technical, but I want to start by being completely accurate in a comprehensive description of this plant. I’ll quote from the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health – via a system called PubMed.gov, which has an abstract from a linked December 2012 Journal of the American Osteopathic Association article entitled Pharmacology of Kratom: An Emerging Botanical Agent With Stimulent, Analgesic and Opioid-Like Effects.
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a plant indigenous to Thailand and Southeast Asia. Kratom leaves produce complex stimulant and opioid-like analgesic effects. In Asia, kratom has been used to stave off fatigue and to manage pain, diarrhea, cough, and opioid withdrawal. Recently, kratom has become widely available in the United States and Europe by means of smoke shops and the Internet. Analyses of the medical literature and select Internet sites indicate that individuals in the United States are increasingly using kratom for the self-management of pain and opioid withdrawal. Kratom contains pharmacologically active constituents, most notably mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Kratom is illegal in many countries. Although it is still legal in the United States, the US Drug Enforcement Administration has placed kratom on its “Drugs and Chemicals of Concern” list. Physicians should be aware of the availability, user habits, and health effects of kratom. Further research on the therapeutic uses, toxic effects, and abuse potential of kratom and its constituent compounds are needed.
That’s 4 years ago, I’m sure we have learned a little more…but even within the title back then, we see that they consider it to be a botanical agent (not a drug or a synthetic “bath salt” – or anything synthetic for that point), they consider it to have an Opioid-like effect (but it’s not an Opioid). “In Asia, kratom has been used to stave off fatigue and to manage pain, diarrhea, cough, and opioid withdrawal.”
That really closes the book to me on any sort of claims of “no medicinal benefit”, but we’ll get to that later.
Well, unfortunately we’re going to get to that over and over and pound that theme pretty hard as we attempt to understand some nonsensical decisions that the DEA has made recently.
Can this plant be Considered “safe”?
Can this planet even be considered safe?
I’m pretty sure practically everything – including those “Drop Bears” is trying to kill everyone in Australia. There’s Fukushima. Hurricanes (the cocktails, and the storms). Taco Bell farts. Scorpions. Whatever this Zika thing is.
Face it, the odds are somewhat stacked against us. Safety is often an illusion or a veneer at best.
I searched a few places here and there and did locate some anecdotal evidence that there had been “Kratom-related fatalities”. However, these generally presented themselves for my review like this:
A fatal case in the United States involved a blend of kratom, fentanyl, diphenhydramine, caffeine and morphine sold as a herbal drug.
My reaction is “Come on.” Fentanyl, morphine, diphenhydramine (because why not throw an antihistamine in, right?), caffeine, and Kratom – even the least educated amateur pharmacologist among us is very unlikely to look first at the Kratom in this sort of “experiment”. Wow, that’s a hell of a set of stuff there.
I’ll have to look more into the fatality and see if everyone’s favorite friend Ethyl was involved with that case as well. You know – Ethyl Alcohol (hic). She is so often hidden as a true cause of death.
Another classic is found in the Journal of Forensic Science, also liked at NIH’s NLM via PubMed.
The decedent had a documented history of heroin abuse and chronic back pain and reportedly self-medicated with Kratom (mitragynine).
Poor guy – not only heroin abuse (at this point, you really may be up shit’s creek, sir), but also back pain. Kratom does seem like a likely substance to consider here for someone presenting with those symptoms.
The autopsy was remarkable only for pulmonary congestion and edema and a distended bladder, both of which are consistent with, though not diagnostic of, opiate use. A laboratory work-up revealed therapeutic levels of over-the-counter cold medications and benzodiazepines. However, of interest was a level of mitragynine at 0.60 mg/L. Given the facts of the case, the Medical Examiner certified the cause of death as “possible Kratom toxicity” and the manner of death was classified as “accident.”
(Source: A drug fatality involving Kratom.)
I have precisely the same opinion here, alas. When you mix medicines, weird shit including death can happen – prescription or otherwise. It certainly says so right in the human life manual. Well, it definitely says it on the OTC cold medicine. If the benzos were prescribed, you betcha. It was discussed with a Doctor or a Pharmacist.
Heroin abuse. I guess there’s not too much “recreational heroin use”. SMH. Yep. It’s gotta be the kratom. Let’s just make an unsubstantiated claim – we certainly need to say “this needs more study” because that means more grants and more grants means more conferences in Maui and, wait – Thailand! ….oh, shit. Oops.
I’m going to have DEA’s new spokesperson Plastic Man step in to make the connection – I need to dig a little deeper into that J Forensic Sci paper obviously.
What are Reportedly the Potential Medical Uses?
I’m going to again cite the JAOA study here as a lead in:
In Southeast Asia, Kratom has long been used for the management of pain and opium withdrawal. In the West, Kratom is increasingly being used by individuals for the self-management of pain or withdrawal from opioid drugs such as heroin and prescription pain relievers.
Wait…those aren’t even potential medical uses – they’re current and actual medical uses. My friend James, who pointed me in the right direction to start this series of discoveries, said it quite well in a short testimonial on Facebook recently:
Have to close here with another excerpt from our friends across the pond, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
Six Asian and four African Mitragyna species are known to be used in traditional medicine but the stimulant/sedative-narcotic/psychoactive effects are characteristic only for Mitragyna speciosa. In South East Asia, kratom is used as an antidiarrheal, a cough suppressant, an antidiabetic, an intestinal deworming agent and wound poultice as well as to wean addicts off heroin. Outside Asia, anecdotal use of kratom preparations for the self-treatment of chronic pain and opioid withdrawal symptoms and as a replacement for opioid analgesics have been reported. There is, however, no approved use of kratom or itsalkaloids in modern medicine. It has been suggested that the therapeutic potential of kratom or its purified ingredients for the treatment of pain, depression and drug withdrawal symptoms should be explored.
It definitely sounds like a substance that we can benefit as a species from studying further.
Imagine America kicking that Opioid habit I mentioned earlier…whew. Maybe we didn’t need PP/ACA to begin with. Who knows? 650,000 Opioid prescriptions dispensed? How many of those are just making their way onto the black market to continue the cycles of addiction? How many of those are people out of pain but physically addicted to hydrocodone or oxycodone? How many gave up because their health insurance has been destroyed through one of the most inept project/program implementations in mankind’s history? Many of those folks have moved on to heroin – much of which comes from guess where…Afghanistan.
This is all tied together somehow folks – I certainly aim to illuminate a few of these interconnections in this series. There are implications for Russia, implications for Afghanistan, implications for America – certainly for Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia.
Issues with a Schedule 1 Designation
There’s just no better place to ascertain what the Drug Enforcement Agency means by “scheduling” a thing (you would think they would only have authority to regulate drugs, right?) as a “schedule 1 controlled substance”…
Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
1500 hundred words into this piece, and damn…DEA has to ruin everything. That the story of many lives as I understand it..sigh. There’s a plethora of hard, peer-reviewed, published evidence out there – it’s all over the place. Wow, this feels just like what our vaping community just went through with the FDA and their sycophantic enablers in the “MSM”.
Here’s a typical vaping experience – every time some dumbass leaves a high drain “18650” lithium rechargeable battery in their pocket and unfortunately draws 20 Amps into their crotch as fast as the cel can discharge it, our whole community gets shit upon again. It’s not a vaping issue, it’s a battery safety issue. Vaping takes the media shitstorm from every angle – and then the community generally starts a vigorous session of in-fighting as everyone fights over whether or not to acknowledge the issue. One third of folks are screaming “don’t share that shit, it’s negative!”. One third of folks are screaming “we need to educate these dumbasses, dumbass! This wasn’t a vaping issue!!!!”.
I’m usually over with the other third – just vaping and generally pissing and moaning about the FDA and the other 2/3 of the community…sigh. Street racing was really kinda the same way back in the day. It was occasionally a whole lot faster though.
Point being – I hope the Kratom community doesn’t have a similar population of dumbasses, but when fatality reports are ripping off 6 and 7 different substances present in the unfortunate folks at the time of death…well. Humans…well…Damn, they sure act like humans a lot.
Which reminds me – why is this cognitive dissonance happening?
Is the horse still laying on the ground?
What happens if we follow the money?
What other products/industries are Potentially impacted by Kratom?
Hmmm…I know that Kratom has the potential to really hurt Big Popcorn. We will get them out of the way first.
LOL…OK, so that’s an inside joke around here for you new folks…
I don’t really know yet, but I have my suspicions – and am going to dig in those directions. As a shortlist, well…in order, I would say my list looks a little bit like this:
- Big Pharma
- Big Tobacco
- Big Alcohol (?)
- Big Caffeine/Big Tea (?)
- Big Treatment (!!!)
- The Cartels (aka Our American Health Insurance Companies…lol)
- The Evil Cartels (Yeah, those ones too)
Oh wait – if it exists, it must be regulated. We musn’t forget that angle. It’s ubiquitous and so insidiously pervasive.
- Big Government
That’s a lot of folks that potentially have large – truly MASSIVE – amounts of cold hard cash to lose if Kratom becomes generally accepted, our nation is educated, and it is actually available as an alternative medicine. Pardon my French, but wow – that’s a lot of fucking lobbyists (not to mention some real, actual killers).
No wonder Kratom never had a chance.
I’m going to keep digging…soon I’m going to start talking about Big Road Trip 2016-2017…wink, wink. In case you missed it, my wife and I really like to travel.
See you soon!
I am often willing to forgive this sort of thing from kids, but good God.
— Richard M. Nixon (@dick_nixon) August 31, 2016