A delayed U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ban on kratom would stifle scientific understanding of the herb’s active chemical components and documented pharmacologic properties if implemented, according to a special report published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
The report cited the pharmacologically active compounds in kratom, including
- speciogynine and
- 20 other substances,
as one basis for further study.
It also emphasized the extensive amount of anecdotal evidence and current scientific research that indicates kratom may be safer and less addictive than current treatments for pain and opioid withdrawal.
“There’s no question kratom compounds have complex and potential useful pharmacologic activities and they produce chemically different actions from opioids,” said author Walter Prozialeck, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“Kratom doesn’t produce an intense euphoria and, even at very high doses, it doesn’t depress respiration, which could make it safer for users.”
“While the DEA and physicians have valid safety concerns, it is not at all clear that kratom is the culprit behind the adverse effects,” said Anita Gupta, DO, PharmD and special advisor to the FDA.
Dr. Gupta, an osteopathic anesthesiologist, pain specialist and licensed pharmacist, has treated a number of patients who’ve used kratom. “Many of my patients are seeking non-pharmaceutical remedies to treat pain that lack the side effects, risk, and addiction potential of opioids,” she said.
Kratom is currently banned in states including Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Tennessee.
The DEA is scheduled to decide whether to place kratom on its list of Schedule 1 drugs, a classification for compounds thought to have no known medical benefit. Marijuana, LSD and heroin are Schedule 1 drugs, which prevents the vast majority of U.S.-based researchers from studying those substances.
Study: Update on the Pharmacology and Legal Status of Kratom, Walter C. Prozialeck, PhD, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, doi:10.7556/jaoa.2016.156, published online November 2016.