DEA Reverses Decision on Kratom Pending Further Investigation of the Plant

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is walking back its August decision to classify kratom as a Schedule I drug. Kratom is a plant native to Southeast Asia that has been used since at least the nineteenth century to treat chronic pain and to help mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms. It is related to the coffee plant and produces opiate-like effects after ingestion.

The reversal comes after a major public backlash in response to the proposed ban of the plant. Proponents for the plant include lawmakers, researchers and those who utilize the plant for health-related issues.

Mark Pocan (D.-Wis.) is pleased with the DEA’s reversal on the controversial plant. “Concerned citizens across the country have made it clear, they want the DEA to listen to the science when it comes to the potentially life-saving properties of kratom,” he wrote in an email.

Susan Ash of the American Kratom Association wrote in a separate email that she was in tears that their voices were being heard, but acknowledging that her organization still had an uphill battle.

Researchers believe that the study of kratom could lead to other forms of painkillers that are non-addictive, unlike opiates. Andrew Kruegel, a researcher from Columbia University, said he is encouraged by the DEA’s decision to obtain further research on the plant before placing it on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Kruegel is one of the many researchers using kratom in his studies to develop next-generation painkillers.

Kratom users are also breathing a sigh of relief. Many have come forward detailing their positive experience in overcoming alcohol and opioid addiction or in managing chronic pain through the use of kratom.

The public is being asked to submit comments on the use of kratom by December 1, 2016. It has also turned to the FDA for an expedited evaluation and recommendation on the plant.