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fter announcing that the herbal supplement kratom would be made as illegal as heroin, the Drug Enforcement Administration is now reconsidering its decision, a US official familiar with the process told STAT on Wednesday morning.

In late August, the DEA announced that it would ban the substance for two or three years, a step that it could take unilaterally in a case it deems to be a “public health crisis.”

Kratom is a plant from Southeast Asia often used to self-treat opioid withdrawal, chronic pain, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In making its decision, the DEA pointed to an increase in the number of calls to poison control centers related to kratom as a justification for acting swiftly, without seeking input from other government agencies — and with no opportunity for public comment.

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Now, however, after protests in front of the White House, a petition that garnered more than 130,000 signatures, and criticism from members of Congress, the DEA is reconsidering.

The ban could have taken effect as early as Sept. 30, but a DEA spokesman said that the order had not yet been signed. He could not say when it might be signed.

But an official familiar with the decision said that DEA was now considering instituting a period of public comment, or taking the more traditional approach to banning drugs, a process that involves both public input and detailed consultations with the Food and Drug Administration to determine whether the substance is in fact a health threat.

That could significantly delay the ban — or potentially lead to the reversal of the decision entirely.

Representative Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Wisconsin, who spearheaded a protest letter signed by several dozen lawmakers, spoke to the acting administrator of the DEA on Friday. “Since they didn’t initially go through the proper protocol for this procedure, now they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to implement some sort of public comment period,” said a spokesperson from Pocan’s office.

The DEA, however, has made no public comment to that effect, and in September, a spokesman told STAT the ban would take effect soon.

Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, spearheaded a similar bipartisan letter signed by eight other senators. His office specified that Hatch is not “pro-kratom,” but that he wanted to make sure that the DEA was not overstepping its bounds.

Given the outcry from thousands of kratom users — many of whom claim that the substance has saved them from addiction — a public comment period could potentially shift the federal government’s view on the plant. Researchers have also spoken out against the ban, saying that this will hamper lab work that might lead to new treatments for opioid addiction and chronic pain.

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  • They need to keep these head shops from selling extract and ultra enhanced kratom. No one knows what the hell is even in the pills. I’ve seen what hell it brings to someone who is trying so hard to quit. Not being able to work, having to quit a job, spending thousands of dollars not to mention the shakes, sweats, anger, mood swings, restless legs, etc. This is not something that should be allowed to be sold by anyone anywhere. We are buying unregulated garbage. We have no clue what is even in it. I believe it is poisoning people and they don’t even know it. Do you really know what it is you are buying and have you tried to quit. It is hell on earth. I hope every state bans it and soon.

    • Your statement is a downright lie. I have used Kratom and all the extracts on the market, recreationally and medicinally, off and on for years (with months and months in between uses.) There is absolutely NO WITHDRAWL associated with stopping it’s use, and there is a wealth of research and data available to prove this. Whoever you are observing is obviously using real opiates. Do some research before throwing accusations at something you have little to no idea about.

  • Anything can become pure hell if you allow it to. As a successful mid-career professional who had a serious back injury, subsequent dependence on pain meds, I can say my experience is very different from yours Malni. It sounds like you need to stay away from Kratom, but many of us have found it to be a virtual life saver. I have voluntarily tapered off of prescription pain meds with the help of a plant that doesn’t create the same problems the pills do, when used responsibly. I wish I hadn’t been so skeptical and had tried sooner.

    I’m so eager to see new research over time. My skepticism stemmed from a lack of good research. Now, through experience, I can say with confidence and authority that Kratom CAN help with opiate withdrawals. It isn’t subtle, so anyone going through withdrawals knows what they feel like and also what relief feels like. Usually from taking an opiate. We desperately need emergency research, not scheduling, to see what impact this can have on larger populations of addicts. M. Speciosa’s effects may be limited, but all we have is bad and worse options for addiction and dependence now. I hold high hopes for kratom.

  • Kratom is pure hell. Very addictive and with out medical help and support. Kratom will eat you alive. STAY AWAY FROM KRATOM

    • Obviously a comment from someone who hasn’t a clue. And has never used Kratom. And really your statement makes no sense. Give everyone here a factual basis for your statement. Like, “Why do you feel Kratom is pure hell?” Give us a cause and effect. Just to say Kratom will eat you alive doesn’t give anyone more info to distinguish if your statement has any legitimacy or just someone interjecting some nonsense that has no informational value except boredom or unintelligent rable because they lack a high IQ.

    • I’m very suspicious of posts like this whereby someone describes Kratom in hysterically catastrophic terms. That is so far from the reality. People who post this nonsense obviously have an agenda -and its not the truth. I imagine they must derive their income via pharma or for-profit prison system. Another crowd to watch out for are the Rehab industry folks who skim billions for treatments that are just sooooo successful…its so laughable when they say Kratom as an opiate addiction cure is just trading one addiction for another. Do you hear yourselves? suboxone? methadone? Trust your own experience, don’t be afraid of a tea leaf.

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