By Pat Anson, Editor
Kratom is a safe and surprisingly effective treatment for chronic pain and a wide variety of medical conditions, according to a large new survey of kratom consumers. Many say banning the herbal supplement will only lead to more drug abuse and worsen the nation’s opioid epidemic.
The online survey of 6,150 kratom consumers by Pain News Network and the American Kratom Association was conducted after plans were announced by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to classify two chemicals in kratom as a Schedule I controlled substances. Unless the scheduling is postponed, the sale and possession of kratom could become a felony as early as September 30.
The survey findings dispel the myth that kratom is used recreationally like marijuana by people who only want to get “high” or intoxicated. The vast majority say they use the herb in teas and supplements solely to treat their medical conditions.
Asked what was the primary reason they used kratom, over half (51%) said they used the herb as a treatment for chronic pain, followed by anxiety (14%), depression (9%), opioid addiction (9%) and alcoholism (3%). Less than two percent said they used kratom recreationally or out of curiosity.
WHAT IS THE PRIMARY REASON YOU USE KRATOM?
“The survey tells us exactly what we’ve been trying to tell the DEA, lawmakers and the general public. The average kratom consumer is nothing like we are being portrayed as,” says Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association.
“The average kratom consumer is a man or woman in their 40’s, 50’s or 60’s, who is primarily looking for alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs that either didn’t work for them or had side effects that were unbearable. The survey clearly shows the majority of people are using kratom to manage chronic medical conditions.”
Nine out of ten patients (90%) said kratom was very effective in treating their pain or medical conditions.
Asked if they get high from using kratom, three out of four consumers (75%) said no and 23% said “a little.” Only about 2 percent said they get high from using the herb. Many likened the stimulative effect of kratom to a strong cup of coffee.
"I only take enough kratom to take the edge off. I never get high like I did on pills or marijuana. Just a clearer state of being with some pain relief."
"It's not possible to get high from kratom as that's not what it does. It is in the same family as coffee and acts just like coffee."
"It elevates my mood, gives me energy and helps with the pain."
"I was stable at all times with kratom. Sound minded and alert. In no negative way did it affect my ability to function. If anything, it improved that and my overall happiness in life."
CAN YOU GET "HIGH" FROM KRATOM?
While the DEA maintains that kratom poses “an imminent hazard to public safety” and has been linked to several deaths, the vast majority of kratom consumers believe it is safe to use.
Ninety-eight percent said kratom was not a harmful or dangerous substance and 95% said banning the herb will have a harmful effect on society.
Many have strong feelings about what will happen if kratom is made illegal.
"I believe this is incredibly harmful to the thousands of people who have been able to find relief from a huge variety of issues, but especially those treating an opioid addiction. Those people will be forced back to opiates."
"I believe that the ban on kratom will trigger the biggest uptick in opiate-related deaths that we've seen in decades."
"Banning kratom will in no way protect society from an imminent health hazard, but actually push society further into the deadly opiate epidemic that plagues America today."
"It will kill people if they make kratom Illegal."
"We must utilize every tool possible to combat addiction to dangerous drugs, and banning kratom is like cutting off your nose to spite the face: stupid and unproductive."
WILL BANNING KRATOM BE HELPFUL OR HARMFUL TO SOCIETY?
Given a variety of scenarios on what could happen if kratom becomes illegal, two out of three respondents (66%) said kratom consumer would be more likely to become addicted and overdose on other substances.
Over half (52%) predicted that kratom users would be more likely turn to illegal drugs such as heroin and illicit fentanyl.
Half (51%) also said kratom consumers would be more likely to consider suicide.
Asked what they would do personally if kratom is banned, one out of four (27%) said they would seek to buy kratom on the black market – indicating that many are willing to risk being charged with a felony rather than give up kratom. Less than a third (30%) said they would not buy kratom on the black market.
"Making kratom illegal isn't going to stop people from buying and taking kratom."
"People who want kratom bad enough will find it and keep using it."
"I believe kratom consumers are likely to try multiple strategies, but most likely they will go back to whatever they used prior to kratom and there will likely be a black market for illegal consumption because none of these other options can compete with the efficacy of kratom."
"We will all be forced to go back on the very drugs that kratom helped us get off of! It will kill a whole lot of people! It will undoubtedly cause an increase in suicides, overdoses of illegal drugs like heroin and morphine."
"Banning this leaf is equivocal to signing the death certificates of many. You may as well be sticking the needle into many arms."
IF KRATOM BECOMES ILLEGAL, WOULD YOU SEEK TO BUY IT ON THE BLACK MARKET?
Susan Ash of the American Kratom Assocation estimates that between 3 and 5 million Americans have tried kratom. And she thinks the DEA’s attempt to ban the herb may have actually led more people to try it.
“Probably a quarter of a million have tried it since they put this notice out,” Ash said.
To see the complete survey results, click here. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the effectiveness of kratom in treating specific chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraines and back pain.