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Kratom Will Join Heroin, Pot, LSD On Schedule I Controlled Substance List

By Paul Gaita 09/01/16

Beginning September 30, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, the two major chemicals in kratom, will be classified as Schedule I substances.

Kratom Will Join Heroin, Pot, LSD On Schedule I Controlled Substance List

The Drug Enforcement Administration announced that it would temporarily ban two chemicals found in kratom, a herbal supplement that advocates say is an effective treatment for a variety of issues from chronic pain and depression to physical and psychological dependence on opioids.

The DEA filed a notice of intent on Wednesday to place the plant—a tropical evergreen in the coffee family that is native to Southeast Asia—and its two primary components—mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine—onto Schedule I, where marijuana, LSD and ecstasy are currently listed. By banning these active chemicals, the DEA can include both the plant and any synthetic equivalents under the temporary ban, effective September 30.

Users report that kratom, which can be easily purchased online and in brick-and-mortar locations like smoke shops, provides a peaceful effect not unlike a drug such as morphine. And there have been reports that the supplement has been used successfully to manage both chronic pain and opioid dependency. Though advocates insist that kratom is not addictive, some users say the opposite was true for them.

In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report stating that intoxication from kratom was the cause of more than 600 calls to poison control centers between 2010 and 2015. Advocates countered that this number is far outweighed by cases of poisoning due to other legal or illegal substances, and that many of these intoxication cases were the result of kratom interacting with other illegal drugs.

But the notion of kratom as a potentially harmful substance has been picked up by the Food and Drug Administration as well as many law enforcement officials and medical professionals. Several states also banned the plant, though regulation proved difficult due to its status as a herbal supplement. 

The new ruling by the DEA may keep kratom on the Controlled Substances list for up to two years until the Department of Health and Human Services can complete its studies on the plant. If its findings deem that kratom is a public health threat, it will remain banned, which concerns both advocates and users.

“I fear for all of the people who found kratom to be a solution for them to get off things like heroin,” said Susan Ash, founder and director of the American Kratom Association, told STAT. “I foresee a large jump in the already epidemic proportions of opiate deaths in this country."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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