Kratom, a natural pain reliever is usually ingested through hot tea, water or food.

The controversial opioid alternative kratom is at risk of being banned although more than 142,000 people signed a petition opposing the ban including two advocates near Yelm.

Kratom is a plant that grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and is used as a natural medicine to ease pain, relieve anxiety and is often used as harm reduction for opioid addiction. It is commonly taken orally in capsule form, mixed with food, water or tea. 

The substance was nearly banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration in October 2016 but the agency delayed their decision after backlash from kratom advocates across the country. The DEA planned to classify the herb as a schedule one drug, along with heroin, ecstasy and LSD but delayed their decision until the Federal Food and Drug Administration issued a recommendation.

Kratom is legal under federal law but is banned in Indiana, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Vermont, Arkansas, Alabama and Rhode Island.  Kratom is banned in Sarasota County, FL, San Diego, CA, Ontario, OR, Jerseyville, IL and Washington D.C.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued an advisory Nov. 14 for consumers to avoid using kratom as it was linked to 36 deaths. The linked deaths are under scrutiny by the American Kratom Association, a coalition of kratom advocates. 

“Evidence shows that kratom has similar effects to narcotics like opioids, and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and in some cases, death,” Gottliebi said in a statement. “At a time when we have hit a critical point in the opioid epidemic, the increasing use of kratom as an alternative or adjunct to opioid use is extremely concerning.”

Three members of the coalition obtained autopsy reports and found many of the linked deaths involved other drug use including opioids and one linked death was ruled as a homicide with cause of death due to traumatic lung, chest and aortic injury.

“That’s like saying coffee or water is in their system,” said kratom advocate Linda Mitchell.

Mitchell, 36, of Graham, began using kratom about five months ago after she underwent a hysterectomy due to endometriosis. She said the disease causes spontaneous flare ups, which resulted in many hospital visits but kratom reduces her pain level and provides energy. She takes a teaspoon and a half 3-4 times per day, equalling roughly 12-15 grams per day. Mitchell said comparing the substance to opioids is unfair because kratom “doesn’t get you high.”

“Within 20 minutes most of the pain is gone. My pain level goes from seven or an eight to two or a three (on a scale of one to 10) which is manageable for me,” Mitchell said. “I always had extreme fatigue my whole adult life and there was no energy. I’m always go, go, go, but some days I couldn’t bear to get off the couch. I now have energy like normal people.”

Nora Van Meter, kratom advocate and former Yelm resident, said she began using kratom as an alternative to opioids two years ago. Van Meter served eight years in the Army and although she was never deployed, she attributes chronic neck and back pain to physical training required of military service. 

Kratom can be found in some urban gas stations and marijuana shops but Van Meter and Mitchell recommended buying kratom from trusted vendors through the American Kratom Association or Kratom Connoisseurs. They said gas stations and head shops require little regulation while both forums have a select group of individuals who test their product before it is available for distribution.

“We understand regulations and it needs to be clean and pure,” Van Meter said. “No one wants it mixed with other things, if you want regulations, that’s fine with us. We just don’t want you to take it away because you’re not making money off of it.”

Van Meter argued the federal government’s intention to ban the supplement is based on revenue received through the pharmaceutical industry.

CNBC estimated U.S. consumers to have purchased $450 billion worth of prescription drugs based on their list price in 2016, a total estimated revenue of $323 billion after discounts and rebates. Their five-year forecast predicts spending to surge to $610 billion by 2021.

Pharmaceutical companies will not receive any revenue through kratom. Many members of the American Kratom Association including Van Meter and Mitchell conspire the federal government intends to ban kratom which would push consumers to prescription drug use.

The Washington state government is focused on opioid prescribers with Senate and House bills focused on treatment and prevention.

Opioid abuse has been a frequent topic among the Washington state Legislature. In September, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for fueling an opioid epidemic in Washington state (See last weeks front page article). The lawsuit revealed Purdue visited one physicians practice out of Yelm and Olympia 537 times in an eight year span. The physician prescribed about 6,300 prescriptions of Oxycontin, Brutans and Hysingla, more than three times than the second highest prescriber in Olympia. 64,000 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses in 2016 according to the New York Times.

Washington senators took action after Gov. Jay Inslee urged the Legislature to respond to the opioid epidemic at the end of last year’s legislative session. Senators Annette Cleveland and Ann Rivers introduced SB 6150, focused on health and long term care while state representatives Eileen Cody and Jay Rodne introduced House Bill 2489, focused on healthcare and wellness.

Mitchell and Van Meter believe the answer to many of the problems associated with the opioid epidemic can be resolved through kratom use. They cited that many kratom users use the substance for pain relief instead of taking opioids and are fearful that kratom advocates will be left without safe ways to relieve pain.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” Van Meter said. “People will go back to the streets to find drugs, find alternate ways of coping with pain. I feel bad if that’s what they must resort to but I hope it doesn’t come to that. People don’t know about kratom and it would make a big difference if they did.”

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(1) comment


After having time to think about this, I hope everyone is looking at this issue broadly enough. From a principle perspective, this issue is about so much more than kratom. The question folks really need to be asking is, "In the United States, where we uniquely have inalienable, individual, inherent rights, how does any level of government believe they have the privilege to legislate what we can, or can't, put in, or take out, of our own bodies which are our own sovereign nations?" While it is a little flattering they want to protect us, the bottom line is it is outside any government's jurisdiction. Before We can thoroughly educate the FDA/DEA/Trump, We ourselves must understand the roots of this tyranny. The government has always known it doesn't have the privilege to make plants illegal. They tried with the 18th amendment, but they quickly learned the 2nd amendment trumped the 18th amendment. After passing the 21st amendment in 1933, less than a year later, in knowing they did not have the privilege to make machine guns illegal, they simply perverted the 16th amendment, and passed legislation stating in order to possess a machine gun, you first needed a tax stamp from Congress, which they printed few of. This Jedi mind trickery was only possible because the People were docile after the 21st amendment. This single act set the stage for the tyranny We see today from the FDA. As in 1937, the government passed the Marihuana Tax Act, stating in order to possess marijuana, you first needed a tax stamp from Congress, where they simply didn't print any stamps. This is the basis for how our government originally overstepped its bounds. We have to fight the tyranny at the root. We the People would never stand for that outright tyranny in 2017. Could you imagine? Sure you can exercise your 5th amendment, but first you need to possess a 5th amendment tax stamp, and sorry we aren't printing any. Technically, via precedent, our government feels they have that privilege. Unfortunately, since the original shenanigans were in the 1930s, everyone just feels it's always been like this, and that the government can do whatever they would like. Our government needs taught otherwise, and We the People must accept our responsibilities. Fear is the only motivator for a tyrannical government. If they're not looking over their shoulders, then we're not doing it right. Scared, not smug, they must be, in order for We the People to win this war of our generation. This war is more crucial than Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, or North Korea. This war is on our own soil. Right in front of our eyes. In war, it is kosher for both sides to fight. What war has ever been won by a People who sit back and cross their fingers the attackers will just not be evil? Where only one side takes up arms against the other? We could try putting flowers down the barrels that will certainly be pointed at all of us when the DEA waits for the most opportune time to schedule this (my guess is DEA will schedule sometime between 1/19-2/15), and then turns millions of Americans into felons overnight. They are banking on us remaining docile. If they were truly scared, they'd back off. But with Trump being buddy buddy now with Duterte, it's obvious he is supportive of death squads if We the People possess plants that compete with GlaxoSmithKline and the others. Life is short. There is no greater noble cause than fighting tyranny...fighting for our freedoms...being selfless in this war, for a better future for our children.

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