Drug War

After Banning Kratom, DEA Says It Might Be a Useful Medicine

"Our goal is to make sure this is available," a spokesman says.

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Kraken Kratom

Officials at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seem to have been surprised by the negative reaction to the agency's "temporary" ban on kratom, which it implausibly claimed was necessary "to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety." That ban, which will last at least two years, can be extended for another year, and during that time the DEA is supposed to go through the motions of justifying the decision it has already made. But according to DEA spokesman Melvin Patterson, the agency may decide not to keep kratom in Schedule I, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

"I don't see it being Schedule II [or higher] because that would be a drug that's highly addictive," Patterson tells Washington Post drug policy blogger Christopher Ingraham. "Kratom's at a point where it needs to be recognized as medicine. I think that we are going to find out that probably it does [qualify as a medicine]."

Patterson makes it sound as if the DEA had no idea Americans were using kratom for medical purposes, even though it discusses those uses in its explanation of the ban. The storm of protest from medical users of kratom, which included a demonstration near the White House on Tuesday, "was eye-opening for me personally," Patterson says. "I want the kratom community to know that the DEA does hear them. Our goal is to make sure this is available to all of them." And what better way to do that than banning all kratom products?

Patterson's comments are surprising, not least because they contradict conclusions the DEA already has reached about kratom, a pain-relieving leaf from Southeast Asia that recently gained a following in the United States as a home remedy and recreational intoxicant. Explaining why it decided to ban kratom, the DEA says "available information indicates that [mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, kratom's main active ingredients] have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision." Those are the criteria for Schedule I, which Patterson now says is not appropriate for kratom.

Although the DEA does not have to demonstrate that kratom meets the criteria for Schedule I to put it there temporarily, it goes to great lengths to show that kratom has "a high potential for abuse," mainly by classifying everything people do with it as abuse. Under the CSA, drugs in the top two schedules are all supposed to have a "high potential for abuse," while drugs in lower schedules (III through V) are supposed to have progressively less abuse potential. Patterson suggests a drug cannot have a high potential for abuse unless it is "highly addictive," which kratom is not. Yet neither are many other substances in Schedule I, including marijuana, qat, LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, MDMA, and dimethyltryptamine, assuming addictiveness is measured by the percentage of people who become heavy users after trying a drug. Evidently a drug need not be highly addictive to be placed in Schedule I.

Nor does the DEA define abuse potential based on the hazards a drug poses. Chuck Rosenberg, the agency's acting administrator, notes that "Schedule I includes some substances that are exceptionally dangerous and some that are less dangerous (including marijuana, which is less dangerous than some substances in other schedules)." Emphasis mine, because people tend to assume that Schedule I is a list of what the DEA considers to be the world's most dangerous drugs. The DEA does not see it that way. "It is best not to think of drug scheduling as an escalating 'danger' scale," Rosenberg says.

If "high potential for abuse" does not refer to addictiveness or to danger, what does it signify? Nothing more than the DEA's (or Congress's) arbitrary preferences. "High potential for abuse" is a political concept, not a medical or scientific assessment. If the DEA (or Congress) does not like a particular kind of drug use, that use is abuse by definition. Since the DEA does not recognize any legitimate medical or recreational use for marijuana, LSD, or kratom, the abuse potential of these drugs is demonstrated by the fact that humans consume them.

In addition to applying a highly elastic definition of drug abuse, the DEA says a controlled substance must be placed in Schedule I, regardless of its abuse potential, unless it has "a currently accepted medical use." So even though marijuana is less dangerous and less addictive than drugs in lower schedules, it has to stay in Schedule I until the DEA decides there is enough evidence to demonstrate its medical utility. Likewise with kratom.

Although Patterson, the DEA spokesman, says "kratom's at a point where it needs to be recognized as medicine," the DEA says otherwise. It notes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved kratom as a treatment for any medical condition. Nor is the FDA considering any applications to approve kratom as a medicine. "Kratom does not have an approved medical use in the United States and has not been studied as a treatment agent in the United States," the DEA says. As far as the DEA is concerned, that means kratom cannot possibly have a currently accepted medical use.

So how does Patterson imagine that kratom will be "recognized as medicine"? Ingraham says Patterson "cautioned that research would be necessary to know for sure how to best regulate the drug." The DEA says no such research has been conducted yet, and medical studies will be much harder to do now that kratom is a Schedule I drug. To recognize a medical use as "accepted," the DEA wants to see the sort of large, expensive clinical trials that the FDA requires before approving a new pharmaceutical. It hardly seems likely that such research will be completed during the next two or three years, starting from zero, in the forbidding regulatory environment that the DEA has just created.

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50 responses to “After Banning Kratom, DEA Says It Might Be a Useful Medicine

  1. So Patterson is saying just enough to get the agitators off the DEA’s – or maybe just his – back by giving false hope but the agency is keeping in place blocks to the path of medical recognition? God bless our bureaucratic mess.

    1. Wait until the DEA finds out that you can hallucinate on nutmeg. War On Drugs vs. War On Christmas!

      1. One can easily hallucinate on religion as well. It will be banned next… EXCEPT for the worship of Government Almighty!

        I will now lead us all in a Song of Praise…

        1. Scienfoology Song? GAWD = Government Almighty’s Wrath Delivers

          Government loves me, This I know,
          For the Government tells me so,
          Little ones to GAWD belong,
          We are weak, but GAWD is strong!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          My Nannies tell me so!

          GAWD does love me, yes indeed,
          Keeps me safe, and gives me feed,
          Shelters me from bad drugs and weed,
          And gives me all that I might need!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          My Nannies tell me so!

          DEA, CIA, KGB,
          Our protectors, they will be,
          FBI, TSA, and FDA,
          With us, astride us, in every way!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          My Nannies tell me so!

          1. The Kratomic Punk! (Let’s Brew some Tea!)

            I am a victim of the drug-war age
            A child of the storm, whoa yes
            I can’t remember when I was your age
            For me, it says no more, no more
            Nobody rules these streets at night like me, the kratomic punk!
            Whoa yeah, wow
            I am the ruler of these drug-war worlds
            The underground, whoa yes
            On every wall and place my fearsome name is heard
            Just look around, whoa yes
            Nobody rules these streets at night like me, the kratomic punk!
            Ooo, ahhh
            I am the ruler of these drug-war worlds
            The underground, oh, oh
            On every wall and place my fearsome name is heard
            Look around, whoa yeah
            Nobody rules these streets at night like me, nobody, ah
            The kratomic punk!

            1. komik ngentot and have NO right to bitch! And “democracy” has near-magically removed ALL of the negatives involved in forceful, violence-back thievery and thuggery. I didn’t do nothin’ wrong. komik xxx

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  2. I’m still wondering why the DEA has the power to classify and ban substances on its own. Meanwhile, the Obama administration claims it can’t do anything on weed…while both Democratic candidates promised to take administrative action on it.

    1. Hell, what article of the constitution gives the federal government the power to ban any substance at all? Other than the invisible FYTW clause.

      1. Well, since the 1930’s, the commerce clause which had just been sitting there for a century and a half prior with no one divining its true meaning.

        1. Heck, even the framers of the Constitution somehow didn’t understand that when they wrote the commerce clause, they made most of Article I, ? 8 moot.

    2. Meanwhile, the Obama administration claims it can’t do anything on weed

      Yes, and if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, period.

  3. The ever elastic commerce clause. Which may as well be renamed as the FYTW clause.

    1. Was supposed to be a reply to WTF, but I’m dumb.

  4. They’re being “reasonable” about this so you don’t see the real statement being made – we can debate whether or not banning this is a good idea but don’t you dare question their authority to ban it.

    It’s like a few years back when the Dept. of Ag came up with new regulations on hazardous substances storage on farms and somebody figured out the rules for oil and oil-containing liquids would necesssarily include milk. The DofA immediately said that’s not what it meant, then admitted that well, yeah, I suppose technically it does but we would never apply the rules to milk and then when the dairy farmers insisted on an exemption for milk being written into the regulations they lawyered up and wanted to insist that they had the right to reserve the right to make the rules apply to milk.

    Or the more recent rules overhaul on trucks to increase fuel efficiency and decrease pollution and they slipped the little bit in there about after-market conversions and off-road use and somebody figured out those rules would apply to weekend dirt-track racing. They denied this had anything to do with car nuts modding their cars for racing, then admitted that well, it could apply to that, then insisted they had every right to regulate it.

    Whether or not it’s a good idea is secondary to making damn sure you know who gets to decide whether or not it’s a good idea.

    1. This. Congress has essentially given up all it’s authority. It’s the Roman Senate talking endlessly but having no real power to do anything.

      The U.S. should never have limited the number of congressmen to our current maximum. It’s watered down the will of the people and our ability to hold our elected representatives feet to a fire and made them far easier to buy off by interested lobbies.

  5. Since the DEA does not recognize any legitimate medical or recreational use for marijuana, LSD, or kratom, the abuse potential of these drugs is demonstrated by the fact that humans consume them.

    By this logic, it’s “abuse” *actuality*.

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  7. The enforcement agency also being the classification agency sorely needs to be changed. They make decisions based on providing job security for their employees and at the behest of pharmaceutical companies, not on hard science and evidence.

    1. The need to be eliminated completely, as does their drug blacklist.

      1. I agree 100 percent but most of the public doesn’t. Making it evidence based would be a good first step toward that end.

        1. Evidence-basing would be worthless, as pointed out in the article, because the key word “abuse” is in the enabling legislation, but undefined by either the statute or the United States Code generally. See also “The Myth of Scientific Public Policy” by Robert Formaini.

          There is a tenuous chain of reference in the case law on the meaning of the word that I won’t bother trying to reproduce here, because it’s very special pleading. It’s completely alien to the established meaning in product liability law.

    2. Absolutely Grinch. It was literally crafted to be an end run around separation of powers.

      While I think the whole edifice needs to be pulled down, this would be an acceptable first step. If anything these agencies should suggest laws to Congress, but that’s not how it works at all.

  8. “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States”

    Since it relieves pain, I’m assuming that’s true. Pain is God’s punishment for your sins. Bad back? Suck it up. We can’t give you pain relief because you might enjoy the drug too much.

  9. I want the kratom community to know that the DEA does hear them.

    *Side effects if kratom may include FYTW and hearing loss

  10. I’m a retired high school English teacher, a vet, a grandmother, and a daily user of kratom. I started using it over three years ago when my restless leg syndrome, which had been episodic and mild, all of a sudden became a daily torture. I couldn’t sleep more than two or three hours a night, or sit and read a book, or fly in an airplane to see my grandchildren. The Rx drugs for RLS have dangerous side effects and aren’t even that effective. Kratom is very effective at relieving that squirmy feeling in my legs, and has no side effects at all.

    If you look online, you’ll also see many examples of young vets explaining how kratom make their PTSD manageable. How it calms their panic disorders, and their chronic pain. And how it has gotten them off of much more harmful drugs, like opioids and alcohol.

    Are we going to make these vets, who have already sacrificed so much for our country, felons? Am I going to be a felon? Are my grandchildren going to have to visit me in jail?

    I appreciate that this column shows how absurd the DEA scheduling process is. But can’t you do something? Isn’t there some way we can stop this? We’ve written our legislators and gotten, at best, a form letter back. We’ve protested in DC. We’ve donated money so that the American Kratom Association can hire a PR firm and a legal firm. What else?

    Reason readers, please help!

    1. I wish you the best and hope the backlash will convince the DEA to trash their classification plan. I tried the stuff for insomnia-it wasn’t effective for me but it does seem to be for a lot of people.

    2. I think stories like yours are the best attack. Most national coverage about kratom has been against the ban, but most local coverage is still taking a hysterical angle. I’ve contacted my local news outlets and offered up my story (I’m an attorney with high blood pressure who uses it as an alternative to stimulants for ADHD). If you feel comfortable doing so (I plan on giving away my stash; I promised my girlfriend), then you may want to consider doing the same.

      Prayers for you.

    3. We’d love to. For starters go to Google News Archives and search for “LSD”
      What emerges is a pattern of documendacity spread by the AMA and other interested lobbies. Every article is injected with fearmongering, innuendo, curbside observations and apocrypha. Every abusive parent whose child leaps out of a window suddenly had somewhere else to pin the blame, forensics be damned. This is a confederacy of presstitutes, many of them ex-scientists and other such bought minds. By voting libertarian your vote gains 36 times the law-changing clout. So go for it!

  11. On September 30, all my kratom will turn into heroin. After the “temporary” ban, it could either turn into cocaine or morphine, we’ll see. As a Lutheran, I’m sympathetic to Transfiguration, but God has nothing on the DEA, so color me convinced. The DEA is compassionate and hears us, but on the meantime, we’re criminals who they’ll lock up. Melvin Patterson is the kind grandfather who thinks it’s “really funny” that pain sufferers and opiate addicts are stocking up and opening themselves up to prison time.

    Don’t believe a word that asshole says.

    1. Any stocks you obtain before the ban takes effect remain legal to keep in your possession.

      1. Not sure I believe that. What about “possess with intent to distribute”, where volume has a strong presumption of intent (if not legally, then to laymen)?

      2. I wouldn’t trust that at all. Even if you have receipts I would expect jail time for possession of Schedule 1 drugs.

  12. Schr?dinger’s drug: It simultaneously is and is not a legitimate medicinal substance until the box of increased government power is opened to collapse the political waffling-function.

  13. Won’t someone please think of the children?!

  14. RE: After Banning Kratom, DEA Says It Might Be a Useful Medicine

    Whew!
    I’m so relieved a government agency that says MJ is bad for you has declared Kratom is a benign drug.
    Now I can sleep at night.

  15. They need to have Kratom go through clinical trials first and the FDA to license it. The needs of pharma lobbyists are more important than helping addicts.

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  17. Yes, I suppose technically it does but we would never apply the rules to milk and then when the dairy farmers insisted on an exemption for milk being written into the regulations they lawyered up.

  18. From the article – ” the DEA says a controlled substance must be placed in Schedule I, regardless of its abuse potential, unless it has “a currently accepted medical use.”. (for those who skip the article to got straight to the comments)
    So we are one arbitrary administrative declaration away from coffee being defined as schedule one? Salt is also often abused, if you go along with the “conventional wisdom”. Etc

  19. Fits the pattern. A party with No More DEA on its agenda is on the ballot, so the murdering puritan prohibitionists ramp up the violence of law. Same thing in Germany. When several nations NOT committed to murdering all jews to make the world safe for Positive Christian altruism began making trouble in 1939, National Socialism ramped up the extermination camps. Get while the getting is good seems to be a universal looter motto.

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  22. The DEA is endangering the lives of countless American’s with it’s decision, as those who use kratom as a lifeline to stay above deadly opioids risk falling back to them. For more information: Kratom

  23. From reports, their goal was to create the perfect Thai strain through a process called “grafting”, common in other horticultural trades. Grafting is the process of inserting the vascular tissues of one plant into another in hopes they inosculate ? creating a strong, early-maturing kratom tree while combining traits of two individual plants. For more information: goldenKratom

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