Kratom use has a very long history stretching back thousands of years, originating in Southeast Asia where it grows naturally. There, it is not called kratom, but “biak” or “ketum” (Malaysia), or “krathom” or “thom” (southern Thailand near Bangkok. The scientific name of kratom is Mitragyna speciosa (Rubiaceae).
Throughout its history, kratom has been used as a physical stimulant to help fisherman and farmers be more productive and avoid fatigue. Kratom has also been used as a social stimulant to get more out of conversation and company. Kratom has even been used as a remedy in traditional medicine by people in rural areas to treat ailments like diarrhoea, fever, pain, and diabetes. There are even accounts of Kratom being used to dress wounds. With all these possible uses it’s easy to see why the plant has remained popular throughout the millennia.
Historically, and perhaps the most interesting use of kratom, is as an opiate substitute. When opium ran dry, folks would turn to kratom to curb their withdrawals until the next batch of opium came in. The reason this is so interesting is because, technically, kratom is not an opiate; it just happens to interact with the same brain receptors as opiates do. Thus, that’s a big reason–historically and in modern times–for kratom’s popularity.
To this day, kratom is still used by communities around Asia.
The use of kratom in western countries has a much younger history. In Europe, The United States, and other countries, the use of kratom is somewhat of a new phenomenon. This is yet another product of the creation and spread of the Internet throughout the world. With information spreading so quickly, it’s no wonder plants like kratom are making their way to the West as recreational drug alternatives to controlled substances.
Online shops have made available many different forms of kratom to be used by consumers including dried leaves, powdered leaves, capsules, tablets, tinctures, and concentrated extracts. Since kratom is not controlled by governments, the exact contents of the products being sold is not typically verified. If it is, it’s verified by a private third party paid for by the kratom dealer, and the user receives a certificate of verification with their kratom order when buying from some vendors.
Kratom is legal in most countries but not all. In Europe, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Sweden all include kratom on their list of controlled substances that carry fines and penalties for possessing and distributing.
In the United States kratom is legal on the federal level,l but in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin it’s labeled a controlled substance and is illegal to possess.
Kratom has been on the U.S. federal government’s radar since early 2005 when the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) started issuing public warnings about the rise and spread of kratom throughout the country.
In February 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued “Import Alert 54-15” that seems to provide customs and border agents broad authority to seize kratom products coming from outside the US.
“On 30 August 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced its intention to place the active materials in the kratom plant into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act as a warning about an imminent hazard to public safety, citing over 600 calls to poison control centers between 2010 and 2015 and 15 kratom-related deaths between 2014 and 2016. This drew strong protests among those using kratom to deal with chronic pain or wean themselves off opioids or alcohol. A group of 51 members of the US House of Representatives and a group of nine senators each sent letters to acting DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg protesting the listing and around 140,000 people signed an online White House Petition protesting it. The DEA noted the responses but said that it intended to go forward with the listing; a spokesman said: “We can’t rely upon public opinion and anecdotal evidence. We have to rely upon science.” In October 2016, the DEA withdrew its notice of intent while inviting public comments over a review period ending 1 December 2016.” – Wikipedia
All the attention given to kratom over the last few years has most likely had the reverse effect that the government agencies were going for. All the publicity has led to more people learning about kratom and has seen an even larger boost in kratom sales on a national level.
The number of people developing an addiction to kratom is growing fast. We hope to be a counter-force that will help people manage their reliance on kratom and drugs as a whole.