Kratom Advocates Rally To Stop DEA's Proposed Ban

By McCarton Ackerman 09/15/16

Hundreds of advocates descended on the White House this week to protest the DEA’s plans to make kratom a Schedule I controlled substance. 

Kratom Advocates Rally To Stop DEA's Proposed Ban
Photo via YouTube

On the heels of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s plans to classify kratom as a Schedule I drug by the end of the month, recovering addicts have spoken out in resistance, claiming that the substance saved their lives.

The DEA announced its plans last month to put kratom in the same category as heroin and LSD. NPR reported that hundreds of people—ranging from recovering alcoholics to veterans with PTSD—have posted videos to YouTube explaining how kratom has helped them.

“This is not Schedule I,” said one veteran, as he angrily shook a bottle of prescription opioids given to him by a doctor for pain relief. “When I did my tour in Iraq, I fought for my right to be in America and be able to help myself, to cure myself. I'm not talking about snorting cocaine, shooting up heroin, I'm not even talking about puffing a joint. I'm talking about brewing some tea leaves, having a sip and feeling better."

The DEA has said that kratom was responsible for 15 deaths between 2014 and 2016. Melvin Patterson, a special agent with the DEA, also said that U.S. poison centers received 660 calls related to kratom between January 2010 and December 2015.

However, 14 of the 15 people who died had other illegal drugs in their system, according to NPR. Advocates also pointed out that the number of deaths is drastically lower than the lives lost to legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco. They also questioned the decision to classify kratom in a category deeming it as having no acceptable medical benefits, particularly when the National Institutes of Health has conducted research to see if it’s a viable treatment for chronic pain and substance abuse.

Hundreds of kratom advocates even went to the White House this week to protest the DEA’s decision as well as the fact that it was made without public hearings or inviting the public to comment. Patterson admitted that the swift response from advocates to the pending kratom ban was “unexpected.” 

Those fighting the DEA's decision aren't backing down. “We want a regular scheduling process that involves public comment and the best available science, and not just a note from the CDC that said they got all of 660 calls to poison control when they’re getting three to four million calls a year,” said Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association, to the Pain News Network. “How do 660 calls make an emerging public health threat?”

The White House will be forced to address the kratom ban after an online petition to keep kratom out of Schedule I garnered over 120,000 signatures. Under President Obama’s “We the People” petition rules, any petition with more than 100,000 signatures must receive a formal response ideally within 60 days.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.