My Confusing Experience Following the Kratom Trail

Kratom was a word I'd never heard before, so I decided to do some research.

Three years ago, I lived with a boyfriend who was a functioning addict. He was in law school at the time, so he looked for anything he could get his hands on to sharpen his focus, then allow him to relax after hours of intense studying. He chewed tobacco during the day to give him a buzz, then turned to cocktails each night so he could unwind.

His need for constant mood alterers was getting on my last nerve, and I was curious to see if he was dependent on anything else. Sure enough, I came across mysterious pill bottles from China in his desk one afternoon marked as “kratom.”

What is Kratom?

Kratom was a word I’d never heard before; a quick Google search didn’t reveal much, other than “kratom originates from a tree in Southeast Asia and its leaves contain some of the same chemicals found in opioids.”

I found out that some people used it as a stimulant, while others relied on it as a pain reliever or a mood enhancer. Kratom’s listed side effects included nausea, insomnia and loss of appetite, but the jury was still out as to whether or not it was addictive.

I didn’t think too much about it at the time, and since it wasn’t illegal, I pretty much erased it from my memory. But it came back on my radar last year when kratom popped up in the news. Last August, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) published a notice of intent to temporarily place two opioid-like chemicals found in the kratom plant, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, in the Schedule I category – the same category that houses other drugs, like heroin and LSD. But then the DEA quickly repealed its intent after receiving a barrage of comments from researchers and members of the public expressing concerns about placing it in this category.

Things are certainly getting interesting.

Fighting to Make Kratom Illegal

And the kratom drama didn’t end with the DEA’s flip-flopping decision. Earlier this month, Florida State Rep. Kristin Jacobs, a Coconut Creek Democrat, filed legislation to add kratom to the controlled substance list. House Bill 183 would add kratom to the schedule of controlled substances, making the selling, delivering, manufacturing or importing of its chemical constituents into Florida a misdemeanor of the first degree, should the law go into effect.

Despite its legal fate, the fact remains that there’s still a lot of information we don’t know about kratom – and that knowledge could prove to be much more important down the road than the very little we have to go on right know.

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