The opioid epidemic is claiming new victims every day, and seemingly with no resolution in
sight. Though some doctors are becoming less trigger happy to prescribe this scourge to their
patients, too many people are still crippled with addiction. Worst-case scenarios – prescriptions
or health insurance run out – and then what? Maybe 5k a year in methadone or a 20k visit to an
addiction clinic? Or, because it is what the majority of people can afford, meth? Yeah, a mess
This is personal – I was put on opioids after having 3 surgeries. And I give a lot of
credit to Kratom for being able not to spiral into a catastrophe due to some pharma guys
wanting to make an extra buck.
So, what is Kratom? It’s a plant from the coffee family native to Southeast Asia and has been
traditionally used as an energy boost and a pain reliever and sedative. In the west, it has
recently become widely available in smoke shops, online, and thousands have turned to it
for help in dealing with opioid withdrawals and drug addiction. The word has spread through
platforms like Reddit where, in personal testimonials, it was referred to as God’s gift. Even
though in many countries it is illegal, and in the US it is on the “Drugs and Chemicals of
Concern” list, there are still suppliers and even a rehab center who has seen the great potential of
this plant. Said clinic is aptly named Greener Pastures and though the facility and the staff come
off as a bit too hippy and alternative, they are dedicated to confirming that use of Kratom is
beneficial by partnering with researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New
York and the University of British Columbia to study the short-term and long-term impacts of
As Adrian from a Vice video on Kratom says, “it is not a cure but a tool”. Also, in the same
video, you can see professor Christopher McCurdy who has been researching the plant since
2003 says that even though it fires up the same portions of the brain like opioids, it has not
shown any signs of becoming addictive.
He is not alone. Another paper supports his findings and states that Kratom should not be
placed in the Class 1 category of drugs, even though it should meet some form of regulation
and quality control. The FDA on the other hand, has still not approved it and even concentrates on
reported adverse effects. As Dr. McCurdy mentioned in the video, there are absolutely no
deaths reported in Southeast Asia concerning the use of Kratom and that the issue in the west
is, in his words, a “buyer beware” type of a situation. Also, this paper states that any potential
cases of death reported in Europe and the US, can’t be solely contributed to Kratom because of the combined use of other substances and medicine.
Though we agree Kratom should be regulated, it is mostly due to protect the consumer from
the unconscious suppliers, and to make certain it is safe to use for people who are on other medications. We are not advocating for it to be in every little boy’s and girl’s Christmas stocking, but for it to be available to people who are suffering and for as long as it can help them.