An Open Letter to DEA About Banning Kratom

By Rebecca Shanks, Guest columnist

Dear DEA,

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome and spondylolysis, which in turn caused degenerative disc disease. Like most people, I was prescribed narcotic painkillers.

At first, they prescribed MS Contin. That's a pretty powerful drug for a first time narcotic user, and it made me sick. I took back the pills and handed them to the doctor, who replaced it with methadone.

There still, I couldn't do much except zone out on the couch and sleep. I was lucky if they didn't send me to the restroom vomiting. I got tired of that, and they prescribed Percocet and Vicodin. I was to take the Percocet three times a day, and if I had breakthrough pain, I was to take a Vicodin. 



After a while, like so many chronic pain sufferers, I became more than dependent on painkillers, got addicted, and found my life spiraling out of control.

In 2008, I lost everything and everyone. I lost my husband. I lost my children. I lost my home and wound up moving into a hotel room.

Finally, I was approached by my grandfather, God bless his soul, and he had a heart-to-heart talk with me that something had to change. I took his advice with tears in my eyes, and I went to rehab.

After rehab, while I was clean, the pain was becoming unbearable. Tylenol, ibuprofen and other NSAIDs that were given to me in place of narcotics did absolutely nothing.

I was scared. I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I had to go back on the pills and run the risk of addiction yet again.

That's when I met a woman who ran an herb shop and she told me about kratom. I had nothing to lose by trying it, and when I did, I was more than surprised. It worked. My pain was gone and I didn't have any of the horrible side effects of the pills that were pushed down my throat. It truly was a miracle. 

When I was in pain, I would take kratom and a few minutes later would be able to easily go back to whatever it was I was doing. There was no sleeping all day. There was no drunken fog. I have been using kratom for a few years now.  When I don’t take it, on days that my pain is not that bad, I feel nothing more than a headache.

I got my life back. I got my children back. My ex-husband and I are on very good terms, residing in the same vicinity with nary an argument between us. I have even chased the dream of being an author and have already published one book under a pen name, with two more in the works that will be released soon. I am now a productive member of society, and the mother I should have always been.

DEA, if you ban kratom, what will happen to me? Will I have to go back to the pills, run the risk of addiction once again, and be unable to do anything aside from sleep all day, or zone out on the couch? 

Will I have to just suck up the pain? In that scenario, I will still be in bed all day, screaming and crying out of sheer misery, wanting it to end. My children do not need to bear witness to that.

In any of those scenarios, I will no longer be productive, and I see myself winding up on disability, unable to work. I don't want that. The taxpayers don't want that either, not when I am doing so well on my own.

But if I choose the other route, and continue to use kratom, I become a felon. I run the risk of being shipped off to prison, for doing nothing more than trying to manage my pain while still being a productive member of society. 

So what would you have us do, DEA? Which path should I choose? Right now, I'm not sure. All I know is that I am afraid of what will happen to my life and my family should you choose to continue with this ban. 

By banning kratom, you are not hurting the drug addicts that you have a war with. You are hurting every day, productive citizens. You are hurting mothers, fathers, grandparents and other people, who you would never even know took kratom unless they told you. The plant is that mild.

DEA, I beg you to please stop this. You can stop this. Please listen to the people. 

Rebecca Shanks is the mother of two children and lives in Illinois. Under the pen name J. Theberge, she published her first book, Subject Alpha, and is currently working on two other books. When she isn't working, Rebecca is active in her children's education and promoting autism awareness.

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The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.