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After 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.

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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.

  • Kratom has helped me get off my narcos and xanax. Kratom relieves my pain and actually helps reduce my anxiety. I don’t want to have to get back on my pain meds again.

  • I get that we’re calling this a “delay” and that there’s some chance they’ll listen to our pleas and our personal experiences with Kratom, but I’m having a hard time believing that the DEA, of all agencies, will listen to us when they think we’re a bunch of would-be criminals and drug addicts. I ended up here after reading the update on drugsandbadideas.com about the Kratom ban and they said it’s already banned at the state level in Alabama and 5 other states, which makes me think it’s only a matter of time before my state (Virginia) bans it too since they think everything they hear about is like crystal meth around here.
    Eric, you seem to be up on all the latest, given how thorough, and well-written your article is. Have you heard anything about more states thinking of banning Kratom?

    • But what most of you fail to see is we also have many politicians both federal and state backing the people as well as many private powerful individuals etc So no its not just the public fighting this. Especially with marijuana being made legal in numerous states with more to come? No times are changing people the DEA or Govt is NOT as mighty as you think and with the recession corporations are losing their grip on govt as well.

  • Please don’t ban kratom. There are so many people that benefit from this plant. It is the gateway to sobriety from pharmaceutical and illegal opiate addiction.

  • I’ve been off my oxycodone addiction, robbing and stealing, for a whole year because of kratom!!! I don’t need that oxy-shit or heroin any more!!!!!!!!!! Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • This is an excerpt from Erowid, it contains studies done on Kratom throughout the last 100 years. https://erowid.org/plants/kratom/kratom_journal2.shtml . But one paragraph says it all. And here it is.

    Since mitragynine was the only constituent isolated from Mitragyna speciosa it was assumed to be the physiologically active constituent having morphine-like properties, Grewel (1932) reported to be a protozoal poison but in 1933 Raymond-Hamet and Millat undertook a more critical examination and reported it to have markedly depressant properties. This was substantiated in 1934 by Masson. More recently Macko, Weisbach and Douglas (1972) reported that mitragynine possesses pain threshold elevating and antitussive properties comparable with those of codeine but with no emesis. There were no addictive properties as may be found in morphine.

    Read it before you make unintelligent comments that have no factual basis. That goes for DEA and Pharma backers.

  • Reading that the DEA is trying to get Kratom to be a scheduled substance really made me sad today. I personally use Kratom to help me with my anxiety problems that are a result of my PTSD. I know that the food and drug administration doesn’t have their stamp of approval on it, however I don’t believe they ever would anyways it takes money away from them that they get paid from lobbyist that work for big pharm. The whole system is broken any natural occurring cheap alternative to pharmaceuticals is in risk of being deemed “dangerous” and there after made illegal by the dea so that big pharma can make even more millions with the poison they peddle as absolute cures. The last time that I checked more people die in a year from prescription drugs easily then people from using herbal remedies that work just as well as better. Its time to wake up people the whole system is broken we are being FORCED into being customers for the pharmaceutical industry. I know that many people wont agree with me but that is not their fault the crooks working for these organizations own the media and use fear mongering as a means to throw smoke screens to completely misinform the masses into compliance of their agendas. I for one am not fooled. Its up to us, the ones who have been healed by natures medicine, to spread the word . Mark my words they won’t stop at Kratom. They will not stop until they have eliminated as many natural medicines as they possibly can effectively monopolizing on the market and sending more and more people to their graves from adverse side effects all while making their poket grow deeper. The whole thing disgusts me.

  • I’m on my 3rd day of using kratom. My severe opioid withdrawal symptoms were ceased almost immediately. I use 3-4 medium doses (3-6 grams) of regular leaf daily. 3g in the morning is more stimulating and shorter lasting than 6g before bed. This has been nothing short of a miracle for me.

  • I have osteoarthritis and I am extremely allergic to NSAIDs and for me my only relief is opiates but now that I have found Kratom my life is much more manageable and I am not addicted to opiates I depend on this kratom greatly it has made my life much more livable….

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