by Anton Bautist
Kratom comes from a leafy plant found in Thailand. After chewing the sour-tasting leaves the user receives a gentle rush and an energy effect similar to that of a strong cup of coffee. There is no crash or comedown and the effects tend to last around 30 minutes depending on the amount taken. Kratom has long thrived in Thailand, the leaf traditionally regarded as an organic painkiller and pick-me-up for farmers working the fields.
However, in both Thailand and America this food supplement has received negative press. Thailand, referring to it negatively in top newspapers printing stories of it having negative effects. As we all know, this is very much untrue, and although legal in most US states it is on the federal watch list, banned in Indiana and other states are hoping for it banned. When I say watch list, it was flagged as a product of concern by the DEA, it also clearly states that there were no negative aspects found regarding Kratom. For those who are unaware, you can easily go to the FDA website and find hundreds of flagged products, much of which are easily purchased in your local CVS or RiteAid’s. Many times, these flags are documented because of mislabeling or marketing. In other cases, such as Kratom, it’s simply because there has not been sufficient research completed by the medical community in the US. With that said, there has been substantial research done in other countries. Uninformed individuals tend to see targeted phrases or key words like “Watch list” and freak out without good cause. As a side effect of this misinformation, people tend to pass along incomplete stories or information which ultimately leads to the perpetuation of invalid data.
Back in high school we had this activity where the teacher would line up the class and feed a sentence or story to the first student in the line and they would, in turn, pass that information to the next student and so one. By the time the story reached the last student, it was drastically different than the original story. It’s time consuming to verify stories or information which is read online, but it is highly recommended that you do so before passing along bad information.
Now, despite the negative press and according to Global Post, Thailand is moving in different direction with the Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitsiri pushing senior officials to end a 70-year-old ban on Kratom. The minister believes the Kratom could help wean Thais off of real narcotics.
According to Global Post, Pascal Tanguay, a program director with the Thailand offices of PSI, a Washington DC-based global health organization that promotes harm reduction among drug users, is participating in the Thai government’s legal review of Kratom. Tanguay is confident that the drug’s illegal status will change. Options include making Kratom available only by prescription, decriminalizing small amounts and total legalization.
A recent report from The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime suggest Kratom is listed as the nation’s third most-popular recreational drug after meth and marijuana. Although when asked, many young local Thai’s had never heard of it. In modern Thai media reports, Kratom is often cited as the key ingredient in a regionally popular drug cocktail called 4×100, which is reported as the new favored brew for many.
It has also been suggested by the Thai press that 4×100 often contains a range of household toxins such as mosquito repellant, industrial paint used to mark highs, however there is no evidence to support this. Because these mixes tend to be custom made and contain many stimulants, it’s a bit hard to define the smoking gun.
Kratom is illegal in Australia but is largely used in the pharmaceutical industry, Myanmar and Malaysia and tightly restricted in many parts of Europe. User’s living far from the plant’s native region rely on powdered Kratom, acquired through mail order via through the Internet. A recent poll by a Bangkok University research unit depicts a nation divided: 52 percent worry legalization could lead to Kratom misuse while48 percent view Kratom to be a harmless traditional medicine.
Something worth considering when looking at most of this emerging topic is that Kratom was originally made illegal because it negatively impacted the heroin trade and not because it was harmful. A question we should all ask is, “How many of these reporters and blog contributors who write negative stories about Kratom have actually tried Kratom?