Grim News for Ohio Kratom Users

October 21, 2018 Articles, Kratom Research, News, Op-Ed

Earlier this month, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy voted to categorize kratom as a Schedule I controlled substance. Their decision came in the wake of a divisive statewide assessment by the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network who made the bold claim that state residents were purchasing kratom from heroin dealers and “shooting” it like dope.

According to the OSAM, “Participants [in the assessment] reported that the most common route of administration for kratom is intravenous injection (aka “shooting”). Participants in the Akron-Canton region estimated that out of 10 kratom users, seven would shoot the drug and three would orally consume the drug.”

What this so-called assessment illustrates is just how far government bodies will go to obfuscate the true facts about this Ayurvedic herb. Rather than study the Mitragyna speciosa (read: kratom) plant in earnest, they instead opt to conduct some lame man on the street quiz wherein any neighborhood doper can guesstimate how many people are doing the unfathomable with kratom powder.

When Pain News Network first ran their coverage of the assessment, they were flooded with angry responses from responsible kratom users. “It’s pathetic that lies like this are being spread about a natural leaf that helps with pain,” wrote Jenny Greenwood. “Nobody buys kratom from heroin dealers.”

Which is true, of course, as any Ohio kratom user would tell you. Until now, kratom has been unregulated in the Buckeye State and, therefore, anyone who wanted to use it could easily do so by visiting a local smoke shop or headshop. Furthermore, street dealers aren’t known for peddling products that can be legally purchased over the counter.

Unfortunately, we are living in an age where the veracity of news is trumped, so to speak, by fearmongering. If a headline grabs the reader by the nuts and squeezes hard enough, it doesn’t matter whether that headline is true. All that matters is that the reader believes the hype.

For the last three years, agencies like the DEA and the FDA have made repeated attempts to sully the name of this ancient folk medicine. They have issued public warnings, urging the public to avoid consumption of this “dangerous” drug. They have mislabeled it as a “synthetic” compound. And in tandem with the mainstream media, they have effectively demonized a plant with antioxidant, anxiolytic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Many sensible politicians and medical experts have come out in support of kratom legality, but some have wavered when presented with the bogus evidence pushed on them by certain institutions.

If the Ohio Board of Pharmacy have their druthers, kratom will be lumped in with heroin, LSD, Mescaline, MDMA (read: Ecstasy or Molly) and more. This is unconscionable as kratom could not be more different than most of these harmful narcotics.

To put it in perspective, all one need do is look at the hard statistics. There are approximately 9.2 million heroin users worldwide. During 2016 alone, nearly 15,500 people died from drug overdoses involving this synthetic opiate. According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the heroin-related overdose death rate rose by 19.5 percent between 2015 and 2016.

On the other hand, there are only an estimated 3 to 5 million kratom users. Kratom has been associated with about 44 deaths and some of those deaths have been the result of users taking kratom in conjunction with prescription medications such as Xanax, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, etc. In fact, nine of the 36 deaths documented by the FDA were caused by the deceased ingesting a kratom product that was adulterated with a life-threatening synthetic opioid.

While the precise number of US deaths related to kratom cannot be quantified, the overwhelming evidence suggests that it is insignificant when compared to the ever-ballooning number of deaths related to prescription painkillers and heroin.

These are statistics that should be taken into consideration when talking about kratom legislation. And it’s something that the AKA (American Kratom Association) is beseeching the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to consider this month.

On October 19th, the AKA submitted a petition that was signed by 22,765 American citizens requesting the Board of Pharmacy rescind its proposed kratom ban. The AKA insists that 8-factor analysis does not support the scheduling of kratom.

In AKA Chairman Dave Herman’s words, “The FDA disseminating false and misleading information to state policy makers because the science does not support its federal efforts to ban kratom. The FDA is using junk science, and even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is publicly correcting the record on the false claims by the FDA that kratom has been associated in 44 deaths globally.”

Herman added that there are eight factors that must be evaluated to schedule a substance, and kratom doesn’t meet this criteria. “Not one of those factors—when honestly evaluated—indicates that kratom should be prohibited through scheduling, and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy needs to protect the citizens of Ohio from this blatant overreach by the FDA to meddle in the regulatory policies in Ohio.”

No word yet on whether the Ohio Board of Pharmacy has reevaluated its position. We will follow up with our readers if/when more information becomes available.

Bob Freville
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