DEA Really Plan to Ban Kratom

Ever since Kratom entered the US market and increased in popularity following its consumption, the debate on its legal status has also gained traction. If you have been using Kratom for a while now, you must be familiar with the ongoing battle between consumers and the federal authorities about its legality. 

The Drug and Enforcement Agency (DEA) proposed a ban on Kratom in 2016, which was followed by a public backlash. However, shortly after, the DEA revoked its decision which made the herb quite popular among the users.

Though Kratom is not banned on a federal level, its status keeps updating when it’s banned in one state or another. Keep reading to learn more about the latest updates on the DEA Kratom ban in 2022 and what you should know about the legal status in your state to use it conveniently.

Kratom Usage

Kratom is also known as Mitragynine Speciosa and is currently consumed by an estimated 10-16 million Americans as an alternative to pain-relieving medications and as a substitute for hard drugs. Being a part of herbal medicine in Southeast Asia, it is popularly consumed by crushing its leaves into brewed tea or using its powder in the form of capsules or pills.

The herb is reportedly used by consumers to help combat discomfort and produce relaxation and mood-lifting effects.

How are Drugs Regulated in the US?

In the United States, drugs are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA oversees drug safety and efficacy, as well as labeling requirements and marketing practices. 

The FDA regulates all types of drugs, including prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and dietary supplements. This also includes drugs that are imported into the US from other countries.

On the other hand, DEA is the regulatory body that enforces laws related to controlled substances, including illicit drugs.

Why was Kratom Banned in the First Place?

Kratom originates from the Southeast countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Malaysia and has been a part of traditional medicine for decades in these regions. But the herb only became globally popular after people in the Western countries started consuming it, which also spread its popularity in other areas of the world. 

Shortly after, the DEA announced a ban on Kratom in 2016 and included it in the list of Schedule 1 drugs, making the herb illegal to buy, sell, and use across the US. The ban came after several adverse reports of drug abuse surrounding Kratom, which pushed the lawmakers and legislators to put a ban on the supposedly harmful substance.

Here’s a breakdown of the reports that led to a ban on Kratom:

  • As per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, several cases of Kratom exposure were recorded from 2010 through 2015. However, the medical outcomes were mild and non-life-threatening.
  • The DEA recorded 15 deaths associated with Kratom consumption. But there was a lack of evidence regarding the deaths solely due to Kratom exposure.

Following these events, the DEA requested FDA to review the substance, which didn’t develop satisfactory uses. Hence, the DEA classified Kratom as a Schedule 1 drug to avoid hazards to public safety.

The Backlash

The ban on Kratom resulted in a backlash from consumers all across the country, which prompted the DEA to remove it from the list of Schedule 1 drugs and label it as a Drug of Concern. Fortunately, this uplifted restrictions on the herb to allow researchers to conduct studies on Kratom and analyse its medical effectiveness, which is still quite limited. 

According to many consumers, Kratom has helped them overcome withdrawal symptoms caused by other drugs and medications by being a safer alternative. So the whole debate on pushing the DEA’s decision to ban the herb was because there would be a chance of drug misuse in the absence of a safer alternative.

What is the FDA’s Stand on Kratom Ban?

  The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to ban the herbal supplement, which has been linked to adverse effects. Its concerns about Kratom stem from the same reports mentioned above that pushed DEA to ban the substance.

But what prompted the FDA to move ahead in this direction? To make sense of the whole scenario, let’s go through some backstory regarding the concern over banning drugs, including Kratom.

Last year, over 93,000 people died due to drug overdose, which is the highest number recorded in the US. This pushed the Biden administration to introduce drug reform laws, rejecting the “war on drugs” and focusing on “harm-reduction”.

Recently, the FDA invited feedback from people across the USA to discuss the usefulness and abuse potential of some drugs, which also included Mitragynine Speciosa. The reason for conducting this survey was to forward the feedback to WHO to develop international restrictions on the included substances. The FDA’s stand is to ban the purchase and selling of Kratom as a herbal supplement unless it is proven medically effective.

According to the FDA, 

Kratom is abused for its ability to produce substance-like effects…Kratom is an increasingly popular drug of abuse and is readily available on the recreational drug market in the United States. Evidence suggests that kratom is abused individually and with other psychoactive substances. In the United States, kratom is misused to self-treat chronic discomfort and withdrawal symptoms.”

To sum up the FDA’s stance, since there is limited evidence regarding the medical efficacy of Kratom, the only option to consider is prohibiting its sales from avoiding overdose and abuse. This comes as a bummer because scientists don’t have the freedom to conduct studies on illegal substances, which makes it challenging to analyse the safety of Kratom.

Current Legal Status of Kratom

The legal status of Kratom is a bit of a mixed bag, with some countries altogether banning it and others allowing it to be sold in stores.

Its legality in the United States is still somewhat unclear. It's not an illegal substance under federal law, but it is banned in some states. In addition, the FDA has been petitioned to ban Kratom, whereas the DEA has listed it as a "drug of concern". 

Here’s a list of states where Kratom is illegal to buy, sell, and use:

  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Rhode Island
  • Indiana
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama

Kratom is illegal to possess and sell in the following states:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California – (except San Diego) 
  • Colorado – (except Denver)
  • Connecticut 
  • Delaware 
  • Florida – (excluding Sarasota Country)
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii 
  • Idaho 
  • Iowa 
  • Kansas 
  • Kentucky 
  • Louisiana
  • Maine 
  • Maryland 
  • Massachusetts 
  • Michigan 
  • Missouri 
  • Montana 
  • Nebraska 
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico 
  • New York 
  • North Dakota 
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas 
  • Utah
  • Virginia 
  • Washington 
  • West Virginia 
  • Wyoming 

Is Banning Kratom the Solution?

Though it’s critical to impose a ban on drugs that cause more harm than good, banning Kratom is not the solution specifically because the reports concerning its abuse also involve other substances which are far more potent than Kratom. Moreover, banning a safer alternative will turn people towards seeking street drugs to overcome the withdrawal symptoms of hard medications. 

If Kratom is classified as a Schedule 1 substance, regulatory bodies like the DEA and FDA will find it more difficult to explore its potential medically. This is because when a drug is classified as Schedule 1, researchers have to gain permission from the DEA to conduct clinical trials. This tends to be a costly procedure and involves substantial paperwork. Marijuana is one of the few schedule 1 drugs whose medicinal properties are poorly studied, which is why it is not studied in any significant way.

Another reason why banning the herb is not the answer is that people will resort to buying it off the black market, where its quality is often compromised and unregulated. Without proper regulation, such products can contain harmful substances, which would only make the situation worse for buyers looking for safer alternatives.

How Can Consumers Help Stop the DEA’s Ban on Kratom?

You may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to help stop the supposed ban on Kratom. While the decision belongs to the regulatory bodies, the responsibility of consuming the herb safely lies over you. The restrictions on Kratom make its consumption difficult for people in need of a safer alternative.

To ensure the substance stays legal across the country, it’s crucial to make informed decisions when consuming a product like Kratom, which is already associated with misinformation. This is how you can help:

  • Buy Kratom products from authorized and reputable vendors who sell products that are third-party lab tested and recognized by the American Kratom Association (AKA).
  • Engage with the local regulatory authorities in your state to send them your feedback on the subject.
  • Be a part of AKA’s American Kratom Protectors to help the organization fight Kratom bans across different states.
  • Stay aware of the Kratom Protection Act to ensure that only safe and regulated Kratom products are sold and purchased in stores and online.

Final Thoughts

Kratom’s legality is still a topic of debate in the US due to concerns about reports of adverse effects. However, since the herb has limited medical evidence to support its use, keeping it legal can be difficult if no action is taken to promote clinical trials. 

Because the temporary ban on Kratom by the DEA was due to a lack of evidence and information, a national ban on the herb is pretty much unlikely in 2022. 

To make sure Kratom stays legal, use the substance responsibly and participate in its advocacy to avoid its ban.