he Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday announced its intention to temporarily ban the chemicals contained in kratom, a popular herbal supplement that has been widely used as a way to self-treat chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a number of other conditions.

Kratom, a plant from Southeast Asia that activates some of the same receptors as opioids, can be easily purchased online and in smoke shops. Although consumers have embraced the supplement as a painkiller and in some cases as a replacement for opioids, physicians worry about users who turn to kratom to try to wean themselves off opioids without seeking professional help. They also worry that it may be adulterated, given how little the substance is regulated.

The Food and Drug Administration has been trying to crack down on the substance, banning its import and ordering seizures of illegally packaged kratom product. But because the substance is officially considered an herbal supplement, the FDA has had little power to regulate its contents. A handful of states have banned it as well.


Now, however, the DEA has announced plans to temporarily classify two of kratom’s psychoactive chemicals as Schedule 1 — the same category in which heroin, LSD, marijuana, and ecstasy are listed. The two chemicals are called mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. By banning the active chemicals, the DEA is making sure that both the plant and any synthetic versions of it are included in the new regulation.

The DEA can temporarily move substances to Schedule 1 for up to two years when it believes they present a public health crisis. A spokeswoman for the agency,  Barbara Carreno, said that during that time the Department of Health and Human Services needs to study the substance in question.

If their studies find that it is indeed as much of a public health threat as the DEA suspected, then it will remain banned. If not, the substance will revert to being legal.

“It’s a very tragic day,” said Susan Ash, the founder and director of the American Kratom Association, an advocacy group that works to keep the substance legal.

The issue is more than just work-related for Ash, who used kratom to wean herself off opiates to treat the chronic pain she attributes to Lyme disease. She still takes kratom every day to help control her pain.

“This just ripped my quality of life right out from under me,” she said. “This is the plant that returned me to being a productive member of society, and I truly fear for my future, and I fear for all of the people who found kratom to be a solution for them to get off things like heroin. I foresee a large jump in the already epidemic proportions of opiate deaths in this country.”

Ash and other kratom advocates insist that the substance is no more addictive than coffee, and that as long as it is unadulterated, it is safe for adults to consume. They claim that it is impossible to overdose because consuming too much kratom will make you throw up.

Emergency room doctors and toxicologists, on the other hand, have seen kratom interact negatively with other drugs. In the most extreme cases, seizures have been reported.

“There needs to be some oversight as to what kind of products are being sold in the interest of consumer safety,” Oliver Grundmann, a pharmacologist at the University of Florida, told STAT in late July, a month before the DEA’s announcement.

He added, though, that he is “not necessarily saying that everything related to the plant should be put in Schedule 1. We have seen the damage that that can do to a drug with promising pharmacological properties… For me it’s a death sentence. Once you put a plant and its ingredients into DEA Schedule 1, it’s very hard to do research on it, and it will become very hard to move forward with any positive developments because there is such a stigma associated.”

It was not immediately clear when the temporary ban would go into effect. The notice released Tuesday said the ban would take effect no sooner than the end of September, to give those who manufacture, distribute, or take kratom enough time to get rid of whatever they have.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • Where do I start, I’ve been on the Kratom OPMS Golds – For a long time. It was worth the extra money, and it was an honest to God real find for me. An extract from heaven. EFFECTS from mild stimulation, the famous since of well being, anti-anxiety, confidence, talkativeness, feeling capable of succeeding, allertness, to – family time with my children being more enriched, etc., It basically brought out the best in me, especially as a single dad trying to give my all.. I’ve had no ill experiences with this med (that’s how I see it – as a med). Much better than the pain meds I’ve been showered with since 2007 which offer no stimulation. And it’s true – Kratom OPMS Golds will definitely save someone going through withdrawals.. So, lets talk demographics – Some of us are middle aged adults just trying to bring out the best in ourselves, and continue being as productive as possible to keep up the pace. You know, the older we get the more help we need a long the way.. As for the youth, maybe they just found something to help them a little with social struggles, stress, pressure, work load demand, etc., they just tell their stories and experiences in a rebellious manner that shudders adults, but the truth lies beneath. TRUE STORY: A paramedic came up to me at Winn Dixie in Holiday, FL and said (QUOTE)” We just lost a young girl to an overdose on heroin while on a park bench. She was denied her pain meds at the local pharmacy, and turned to an acquaintance for help and was given heroin.. She overdosed and died right there on the park bench”. I know for a fact – The Golds would have saved her life. ALSO, what’s interesting about that particular Kratom is regular pain medicine doesn’t even seem to help as much after you’ve had the mitragynine.. Why don’t the human powers at be leave alone what is naturally given to us ? This ban is very sad to me..

  • I do not believe that anyone is trying to ban Kratom for the people’s sake myself. I could be wrong but to me it’s a money racket. Kratom has been known to really help a lot of people and not bring much harm to very many. The pros outweigh the cons in other words. The thing is you don’t have to pay a doctor to get it, you don’t have to pay a pharmacist to get it, I’m sure the big pharmaceutical companies don’t like it either. Along with taxes ect……they want to fight the war on drugs and Kratum seems to be a helpful thing in doin that, placing it in the same category is a huge mistake.

    • I’m sure the DEA and Feds need to keep some job security and yes,ol big pharmaceutical is probably right there with them route them.

    • Absolutely, it’s all about scumbag politicians in the pocket of BIG PHARMA.
      Keep the zombies stuffed with patented chemical concoctions that do little or no good but keep the money rolling in. Heaven forbid people can get their hands on natural products that actually help alleviate many chronic conditions.

    • With marijuana getting legalized in so many states (and all of Canada), this will help keep those prisons filled up. Gotta keep those officers busy collecting drug users somehow when they can’t lock up pot smokers anymore….

  • I am so dissapointed in our country, and it’s fairness of due process. To think that a whole governmental institution like the DEA has a doubt or inaccurate information about this plant and it’s benefits it’s absurd. How can “We the People” believe such witch hunt like ban not have any special interest behind it? To all of you that will face hardship due to this decision: I am sorry that the system has again failed you.

    • Well Said Gab, i couldnt agree more. System is rigged and pathetic. Good ole Pharms cannot make money. The Almighty dollar. DisgustiNg

  • This is ridiculous! Kratom has helped tens of thousands if not millions of Americans quit dangerous drugs such as heroin and abuse of pain medications. No one has ever died from kratom!

    • Well they make more money off people hooked on opiates for starts. I read just earlier to day kratom was banned in Shanghai (not sure if I’m recalling correctly the location) because people being on it was cutting into the opium tax. The chemicals the DEA has approved for us to put in our bodies is more often times harmful. If they could synthesize kratom into a pill that big pharma could then sell back to us at a huge profit it wouldn’t be banned

    • Stephany, In reality the war on drugs is merely a play put on to give the public a show. If you’ve ever noticed a lot of law enforcement shows on tv nowadays. The larger scope is they do not really want to stop the harmful drugs being brought into this country. Someone high up is getting kickbacks from such venture. If they were to completely block every shipment that means a large part of society would not be jailed because of possessing/distributing/using. That means loss of revenue. The states and federal government would lose a lot. Every prison and jail is a warehouse of people which the states get money for housing these people. No product in the warehouse no money. Many programs that are targeted to the publics use or involvement are only allowed if someone is making a substantial profit from such ventures.

  • It all comes down to one specific thing. Pharmaceutical companies can have it ban. Tweak it to a pill form and charge outrageous prices. And voila! A billion dollar business. Which the common individual will pay for with their meager wages if any at all. The big picture: They will push all these medicines that are way harmful for you only because big pharma made them and they do not want you to use something that is natural and useful that they do not control and make millions on. I’ve been in the health store and am employed by one. I have tried all their shelf over-the-counter supplements and none help with the anxiety that I have. All they do is give me more anxiety because I spent $21.99 on a bottle of garbage that did nothing but drain my wallet. So ridiculous is this “land of the free” getting.

    • I have had chronic Lymes for more then a year and I just found this product , in desperation to help my pain and suffering. Was just starting to feel
      Like I could work again, I got Lymes before I had my dauter and now I am seeing that Dr don’t even want to prescribe pain meds anyway to many law suits because of miss use off drugs, and are not really looking at Lymes as a long term condition any way . I’m being pushed under the rug as many other suffers have been. It’s a weird way to go down , when Drs are not really catering to pain in people,but the fear of pain in there wallet . Healthcare is a joke, as the country chooses who will be president… This is a bad reality show

  • Kratom in its natural form is not addictive but I can assure you the extracts are. I got addicted to what is called UEI, a Kratom extract. If I didn’t have it I got horribly sick. Because of my addiction I spent thousands of dollars and lost my marriage to the woman I loved most on this world. Because of my Kratom addiction , my three children have had to endure the pain of a separated family. Kratom may have a medicinal use but it can also destroy lives. It has mine.

  • 36 year old working family man,
    7 year opiod addiction…
    1 google search … Natural non narcotic pain relief that works like hydros…..
    Results… Kratom..
    1 click… And everything was positive… Helps people get off heroin and methadone…. Helps cancer patiants with terminal illnesses…. And everything was positive…..
    I order some and was doubtfull it could help somene like me….
    All I ever wanted was to be clean and not let my family down.and be the best person I was intended to be….
    And it worked.
    And 2 years now. Clean .
    I was seaeching foe hope and kratom …. Did nor get me high it took away the withdrawl and gave me hope and courage ant confidence that I could beat my addiction…..
    Even with the ban in sight….
    If it was gone tomorrow I’m still better and closer than I would have ever been had I not found it…..
    I would be dead ….. Kratom gave me a light at the end of my tunel to find a way out of what was so hopless for so many years….
    Please don’t take this from us.

  • Can we please stay on point and avoid sounding overly negative and/or posting conspiracy theories? We are a lot less likely to be taken seriously by policy makers if we all sound like a bunch of angry, rabid dogs.

    • Policy makers don’t take their constituents seriously anyway. Unless you’re a corporate donor, your opinions, needs or desires just don’t matter.


  • Its extremely infuriating to see the shear arrogance and ignorance of government. Arrogance to blatantly give the pharmaceutical companies their chance at the profits that benefit both govt and big pharm. Ignorance …… Yeah I’ll leave enough said! You are ruining lives!!! This cannot go uncontested and there is well enough reams of research to show how safe and EFFECTIVE this non-addictive miracle plant is. Govt, please move on to actual threats in the world. Money hunger is sometimes so disgusting

Sign up for our Morning Rounds newsletter

Your daily dose of what’s new in health and medicine.

Privacy Policy