By Pat Anson, Editor
Chronic pain sufferers often struggle to find a treatment that works. Opioids dull the pain, but come with the risk of addiction; drugs like Lyrica and Cymbalta can have unwelcome side effects; over-the-counter pain relievers often don’t work for severe pain; and alternative treatments like massage and acupuncture are not always covered by insurance.
So people experiment and try different things – often settling for something that just takes the edge off their pain.
That brings us to kratom, an herbal supplement largely unknown to most pain patients and their doctors. At a recent pain management conference attended by thousands of practitioners, I could find only a handful of doctors who’d even heard of kratom. I’ll confess I didn’t know much about it myself until a few months ago.
Maybe we should all start paying more attention.
In an online survey of 6,150 kratom consumers by Pain News Network and the American Kratom Association, nine out of ten said the herb was a “very effective” treatment for pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, opioid addiction and alcoholism.
Less than one percent said it did not help.
This was not a scientific study by any means on the safety and efficacy of kratom. It was an online survey of self-selected kratom consumers, many of them quite upset that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is planning to make the sale and possession of kratom illegal, perhaps as soon as the end of the month.
In a 21-page notice published in the Federal Register, the DEA said kratom does not have "an approved medical use” and “is misused to self-treat chronic pain.”
WAS KRATOM EFFECTIVE IN TREATING YOUR PAIN OR MEDICAL CONDITION?
The agency cited no studies to support its claim that kratom was being “misused” to treat pain, so we decided to ask the people who actually use it:
"Honestly, I was blown away at how good it was for my pain and also had the benefit that it lifted my mood, which was important because of the depression I had been experiencing from the chronic pain."
"This natural approach to pain management has allowed me to work full time as a school teacher and be an actively involved mom. These are things I never thought I would be able to have in my life as a result of debilitating pain from a neurological condition for which there is no medical cure."
"I have acute chronic migraines that, unmedicated, result in pain that is completely debilitating, and at times have landed me in the emergency room with stroke symptoms. Multiple doctors have okayed my use of kratom for pain management, as over-the-counter medicine simply does not work and I cannot take opiates."
"My wife has fibromyalgia and has taken kratom for more than 12 years with no adverse effects. Prior to finding kratom, she had tried all of the medication that was prescribed to her. The prescription medication either didn't work, or the side effects outweighed the benefits. Kratom has been a godsend for my wife and has allowed her to function as a mother of 4 children for more than a decade."
"I have been living with chronic pain from multiple reconstructive foot surgeries for 20+ years. Kratom not only effectively treats my pain, but it enabled me to tell my doctor that I no longer wanted my monthly tramadol prescription."
What pain conditions does kratom work best on? Again, this is not a scientific study, and we don’t have a lot of data for certain conditions. For example, 100% of the people who used kratom for cancer pain said it was “very effective” for them, but we only had 27 respondents who identified cancer as the primary reason they used kratom.
On the flip side, over 1,700 respondents said they used kratom for back pain, so the data is probably more reliable for them. And 92% said kratom was very effective for back pain.
Percentage Who Rated Kratom “Very Effective” for their Pain Condition
- 100% Cancer
- 97% Multiple Sclerosis
- 94% Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- 93% Migraine
- 93% Fibromyalgia
- 92% Rheumatoid Arthritis
- 92% Back pain
- 92% Acute Pain
- 91% Lupus and other autoimmune diseases
- 90% Osteoarthritis
- 90% Neuropathy
- 88% Trigeminal Neuralgia
- 79% RSD or CRPS
- 76% Ehlers Danlos syndrome
Quite a few people said they use kratom for pain conditions we didn’t ask about or discovered that it helped them feel better in unexpected ways:
"I tried kratom for many things and it has worked for all. Toothaches, back and knee pain, sore joints and ligaments, flu symptoms, and insomnia."
"I have had very little back pain since I starting taking kratom to treat it. Three side effects I didn't expect is that it eliminated my restless leg syndrome, reduced my blood pressure to a normal level and significantly reduced my overall cholesterol levels."
"I have found so much relief for my ulcerative colitis and carpal tunnel syndrome from this plant that I fear how my body will respond when I no longer have it."
"I use kratom for severe TMJ disorder and sacroiliac joint dysfunction. I am also a recovering addict, and kratom has helped me stay clean and be the best 4th grade teacher I can be. If I hadn't had kratom to help ease chronic pain and the urge to use, I wouldn't be doing my dream job. I'd probably be in jail without a job, divorced, and possibly even dead."
"Kratom without a doubt helps any part of my body to not be in pain. Not only does it help with pain, it helps with my depression and it helps me get to sleep very easily."
Many also have strong feelings about allowing drug companies to use kratom in pharmaceutical products, which would require approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Seven out of ten kratom consumers are opposed to that idea, believing drug makers have conspired with the DEA to make kratom illegal.
"This is big pharma using the DEA to eliminate an all-natural herb that is taking a bite out of their drug selling profits."
"Everyone knows all this has to do with the DEA and big pharma being in each other’s back pockets. Money is the root of all evil and here it shows again."
"I feel that the pharmaceutical companies are behind this. People are weaning themselves from their addictions and those that don't end up overdosing requiring Narcan. That is a lot of money they stand to lose."
"If pharmaceutical companies produce kratom, the cost will probably triple. There will be tremendous red tape in even getting the drug from a doctor."
SHOULD DRUG MAKERS BE ALLOWED TO PRODUCE AND MARKET KRATOM?
To see the complete survey results, click here.
Meanwhile, lobbying efforts continue by the American Kratom Association to get the DEA to postpone its decision to classify the two active ingredients in kratom as controlled substances. Two congressmen, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Arizona) are circulating a letter on Capitol Hill urging the DEA to delay enacting its order.
“We hope to see a lot of congressmen and women sign onto this,” says Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association. “The letter asks that the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the acting director of the DEA delay a final decision on the placement of kratom as a Schedule I substance, provide ample time for public comment on this significant decision, and resolve any other inconsistencies with other federal agencies.”
A similar letter is being prepared by a law firm hired by the American Kratom Association. Ash told PNN it’s possible the DEA will not formally act on the scheduling of kratom until well after September 30.
“When we’ve looked back at some of the other emergency scheduling processes that have happened, we have found that they will say it’s going to happen in 30 days, but it’s usually a few weeks after that. That’s just what’s happened historically. We don’t think September 30 is essentially a firm date, just based on history, but we are prepared in case it is.”
Ash said her organization would seek a restraining order from a judge if the emergency scheduling is implemented by DEA.