What’s Next for Kratom after the DEA Blinks on Its Emergency Ban?

Scientific American published an article titled, “What’s Next for Kratom after the DEA Blinks on Its Emergency Ban?” The article reads in part as follows;

“Researchers and users of kratom or Mitragyna speciosa were stunned by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s abrupt withdrawal last week of its stated plan to place the Southeast Asian plant under an emergency ban in the United States. One reason for the famously tough federal agency’s unusual move was “a large volume of phone calls from the American public” as well as messages from the scientific community and letters from members of Congress, says DEA spokesperson Russ Baer.

The withdrawal of an emergency substance restriction is something the DEA “has never been done before. It’s an unprecedented action,” Baer says. “[While] the DEA still believes kratom is a dangerous, harmful substance,” he says the agency wants to send the message that it is listening to citizens: “We don’t want the public to believe we are simply a group of government bureaucrats who don’t care about their safety and health.”

The DEA’s about-face comes about a month and a half after it first announced its intent to put kratom in its most restrictive drug category, Schedule I, which is reserved for substances deemed to have no currently accepted medical use and a high risk of abuse. It also includes heroin and LSD. While the ban loomed, kratom users and advocates drummed up phone calls, letters and demonstrations in protest. But most did not expect this to actually work. “I envisioned them withdrawing the intent to schedule,” says Susan Ash, founder of an advocacy group called the American Kratom Association. “I knew it was a pretty ridiculous wish of mine.” On Wednesday morning she got a call with the news. “I was in shock,” Ash says. “I’ll probably still be in shock tomorrow. Words cannot describe my relief right now.”

The kratom tree’s raw leaves or tea brewed from them have traditionally been used in Thailand, Malaysia and other parts of Southeast Asia as a mild stimulant and analgesic, and some modern users claim it has helped ease them out of opioid dependence without traumatic withdrawal symptoms. Others say they use it as what they believe to be a safer way to manage chronic pain. Thailand outlawed kratom in 1943, partly because of reports that it was dangerous and addictive. In the United States kratom is available online and is sometimes sold in stores and bars.”

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