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Kratom (DEA fact sheet)
Kratom (DEA fact sheet)

The DEA is cracking down on kratom. People that use it as medicine are 'terrified'


Last week, the Drug Enforcement Agency ruled that it would consider kratom, a plant-based stimulant, a Schedule I drug, putting it on the same level of illegality as marijuana and heroin. 

Schedule I drugs are considered highly abusable with no medical benefits.

But some users claim there are very powerful benefits, like treating opioid addiction and PTSD.

I'm hearing people that are terrified, literally scared to death of going back to old ways of life.
Susan Ash, American Kratom Association

What is kratom?

It's based on an Asian plant that's biologically similar to coffee. You can smoke it or buy capsules full of a powdered version of the leaf, according to Narconon. It can increase energy and sociability, but in other users, it can also cause psychotic episodes and hallucinations. 

What does it look like?

Here's the capsule version.

Why is it still so popular?

It has a reputation as a medicine. Advocates say it has prevented opioid-related deaths, since it works differently than many pharmaceutical drugs designed to curb addiction. Susan Ash, president of the American Kratom Association, said she "was repeating the same old addict patterns" when using drugs like subutex to get quit opioids, according to The Guardian.

Will the DEA back down?

It's not clear, but spokesman Russ Bayer did tell The Guardian the agency had gotten many calls from people arguing they used it for medicinal purposes. But he said the agency made its decision after reviewing scientific literature and found kratom to be an "imminent threat." 

The DEA linked 15 deaths to kratom in the past two years.

Even advocates aren't optimistic for a reversal.

"They're robots when it comes to prohibition," Jag Davies of the Drug Policy Alliance told The Guardian. 

Some users said they would be happy with increased regulation to ensure kratom's purity.

Should kratom be illegal?

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