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  1. 5-HT2A
    Officials at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seem to have been surprised by the negative reaction to the agency's "temporary" ban on kratom, which it implausibly claimed was necessary "to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety." That ban, which will last at least two years, can be extended for another year, and during that time the DEA is supposed to go through the motions of justifying the decision it has already made. But according to DEA spokesman Melvin Patterson, the agency may decide not to keep kratom in Schedule I, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

    "I don't see it being Schedule II [or higher] because that would be a drug that's highly addictive," Patterson tells Washington Post drug policy blogger Christopher Ingraham. "Kratom's at a point where it needs to be recognized as medicine. I think that we are going to find out that probably it does [qualify as a medicine]."

    Patterson makes it sound as if the DEA had no idea Americans were using kratom for medical purposes, even though it discusses those uses in its explanation of the ban. The storm of protest from medical users of kratom, which included a demonstration near the White House on Tuesday, "was eye-opening for me personally," Patterson says. "I want the kratom community to know that the DEA does hear them. Our goal is to make sure this is available to all of them." And what better way to do that than banning all kratom products?

    Patterson's comments are surprising, not least because they contradict conclusions the DEA already has reached about kratom, a pain-relieving leaf from Southeast Asia that recently gained a following in the United States as a home remedy and recreational intoxicant. Explaining why it decided to ban kratom, the DEA says "available information indicates that [mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, kratom's main active ingredients] have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision." Those are the criteria for Schedule I, which Patterson now says is not appropriate for kratom.

    Although the DEA does not have to demonstrate that kratom meets the criteria for Schedule I to put it there temporarily, it goes to great lengths to show that kratom has "a high potential for abuse," mainly by classifying everything people do with it as abuse. Under the CSA, drugs in the top two schedules are all supposed to have a "high potential for abuse," while drugs in lower schedules (III through V) are supposed to have progressively less abuse potential. Patterson suggests a drug cannot have a high potential for abuse unless it is "highly addictive," which kratom is not. Yet neither are many other substances in Schedule I, including marijuana, qat, LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, MDMA, and dimethyltryptamine, assuming addictiveness is measured by the percentage of people who become heavy users after trying a drug. Evidently a drug need not be highly addictive to be placed in Schedule I.

    Nor does the DEA define abuse potential based on the hazards a drug poses. Chuck Rosenberg, the agency's acting administrator, notes that "Schedule I includes some substances that are exceptionally dangerous and some that are less dangerous (including marijuana, which is less dangerous than some substances in other schedules)." Emphasis mine, because people tend to assume that Schedule I is a list of what the DEA considers to be the world's most dangerous drugs. The DEA does not see it that way. "It is best not to think of drug scheduling as an escalating 'danger' scale," Rosenberg says.

    If "high potential for abuse" does not refer to addictiveness or to danger, what does it signify? Nothing more than the DEA's (or Congress's) arbitrary preferences. "High potential for abuse" is a political concept, not a medical or scientific assessment. If the DEA (or Congress) does not like a particular kind of drug use, that use is abuse by definition. Since the DEA does not recognize any legitimate medical or recreational use for marijuana, LSD, or kratom, the abuse potential of these drugs is demonstrated by the fact that humans consume them.

    In addition to applying a highly elastic definition of drug abuse, the DEA says a controlled substance must be placed in Schedule I, regardless of its abuse potential, unless it has "a currently accepted medical use." So even though marijuana is less dangerous and less addictive than drugs in lower schedules, it has to stay in Schedule I until the DEA decides there is enough evidence to demonstrate its medical utility. Likewise with kratom.

    Although Patterson, the DEA spokesman, says "kratom's at a point where it needs to be recognized as medicine," the DEA says otherwise. It notes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved kratom as a treatment for any medical condition. Nor is the FDA considering any applications to approve kratom as a medicine. "Kratom does not have an approved medical use in the United States and has not been studied as a treatment agent in the United States," the DEA says. As far as the DEA is concerned, that means kratom cannot possibly have a currently accepted medical use.

    So how does Patterson imagine that kratom will be "recognized as medicine"? Ingraham says Patterson "cautioned that research would be necessary to know for sure how to best regulate the drug." The DEA says no such research has been conducted yet, and medical studies will be much harder to do now that kratom is a Schedule I drug. To recognize a medical use as "accepted," the DEA wants to see the sort of large, expensive clinical trials that the FDA requires before approving a new pharmaceutical. It hardly seems likely that such research will be completed during the next two or three years, starting from zero, in the forbidding regulatory environment that the DEA has just created.

    by Jacob Sullum

    September 16, 2016



  1. Addicted2fakelove
    I have been taking kratom responsibly for over 2 years for intense chronic pain, due to a back condition that I should have already had major surgery to correct, and KRATOM HAS CHANGED MY LIFE.

    Some days when I wake up in the morning, I'm in so much pain that tears roll down my face as I try to get out of bed. I can't stand or walk for longer than 2 hours without having to take multiple breaks. I've been to the ER over a dozen times because my pain was so severe that when I would try to move I would almost pass out (and have a couple times) from the pain. The ER doctor usually gives me a high dose of dilaudid and it made me so tired that I would be in and out of consciousness for a couple hours.

    My point is that my pain was taking everything that I once loved away from me. I was a dancer for most of my life and I will never be able to regain that level of athleticism again, but all I wanted was to be able to spend the day walking around at the zoo or the mall or anywhere at all. Kratom has allowed me to be able to do all of those things again. Kratom has saved my life.

    There will always be people who will make the decision to abuse any drug that they can get their hands on. Why should we have to punish those who benefit from taking kratom responsibly, just to attempt to babysit the minority of people who would probably drink cat pee if you told them that it gets you high? Kratom is not exempt from the endless list of drugs that have the potential to be abused. Should this fact take away from the fact that kratom can, and already has, helped so many people?

    The DEA thinks that they are protecting the general public from some dangerous drug that has little medicinal value. Tell that to someone like me. Tell that to someone who had lost hope for a future without excruciating pain, as excruciating pain was my only option 2 years ago. Tell me that I have to go back to living my life in pain, when there's a wonderful alternative available. Tell me to my face that I have to go back to suffering every second of everyday. Tell me.
  2. Hideyourlies
    I actually just posted this yesterday, but this is alot better done than mine as it was my first news post, but i think this is ridiculous, this to me sounds as if the DEA is for sure working for big pharma as they will take away jobs from all the wonderful kratom companies and make people get prescriptions for kratom. I still think this is better than making it a schedule 1 substance as kratom obviously had medical value, but i hope that they will decide against scheduling it at all as all of the kratom company owners have worked hard and will be losing their jobs, and i have talked peraonally with many kratom vendor owners and they seem to be the nicest people alot of great sites with wonderful customer service i feel this is just the pharmacies trying to raise their profits and its crooked
  3. Gradois
    Yes, it's better to think of it like an escalating 'lobbying' scale.
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