Can Kratom Help in the Opioid Epidemic?

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

Someone dies every 11 minutes in the United States from an opioid overdose.* Many of these deaths started with prescription painkillers prescribed from a doctor. There is no sugar coating it. America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. While it is easy to point the finger and blame pharmaceutical companies and the flood of the highly potent fentanyl coming into the country, the truth is, we need a solution for the millions of people addicted to opioids before they become part of a statistic.



Could help for this epidemic lie in an ancient evergreen tree that has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia? While kratom has been researched, studies have yet to go fully in-depth to learn all the potential benefits. One study of kratom was led by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and the University of British Columbia. They took 57 years of international scientific evidence to compile a review of kratom. The findings from the study showed that kratom has major potential for those addicted to opiates. While looking at the psychological effects of kratom they found that it was shown to reduce anxiety and enhance your mood.**


Another study of kratom was performed by Edward W. Boyer, MD, director of academic development in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in 2008. Boyer stated “That it helps them stop their cravings for going back to opioids and helps them with their mood. They feel good. They mention that they aren’t lazy like when using opioid prescriptions or addicted to opioids. They feel more productive and are doing things they love again, returning to a normal lifestyle.” Boyer published his findings from a 43-year-old man who was able to stop taking opioid pain medication by taking kratom.***


With little research done on this herb, many findings are that of personal experience. One of those experiences was from Eric Mayhew. Mayhew was addicted to opiates and wanted to kick the habit himself, without having to go to a rehab center or seek professional help. Mayhew turned to kratom, taking a dose of two to four capsules daily. “What kratom does is kills your brain's desire when you are addicted to opiates and you want opiates,” says Mayhew, 37. “It dulls your pain and you start to get your wits back again.”***


With this research done on kratom why would the FDA advise people not use kratom? Well, the main reason, they haven't done enough research on kratom. They state "to date, there have been no adequate and well-controlled scientific studies involving the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use withdrawal or other diseases in humans."**** You will find that the FDA states kratom is an opioid, which scientists have claimed to be false. Kratom binds to opioid receptors in the brain, but that doesn't make it an opioid. The FDA says that kratom is addictive, but so is sugar and coffee, yet those are still legal. There are theories, about pharmaceutical companies and kratom taking business away from them, which is a whole other topic. If you go on personal experiences of people using kratom, not just for opioid withdrawal but many other purposes it has shown to have very positive results.


While there is no cure all for the opioid epidemic, it seems clear that there should be more research done on kratom. The findings are showing that it does have the ability to help with cravings and withdrawals from opiates. Everybody is different though and what some may find to work, others may not find help in at all. Everybody has a choice and choosing to take a plant rather than a pharmaceutical pill should be left to the individual to choose. There is a good chance someone died from an opioid overdose while you read this and if kratom could have saved them, well I guess that is just up to science to prove.



Sources:

* https://www.thetruth.com/o/the-facts/fact-1005

**https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871617305586

***https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20171026/kratom_opioid_withdrawal

****https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-new-warning-letters-fda-issuing-companies-marketing

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