The Drug Enforcement Administration has received a torrent of backlash from patients with chronic pain and former opiate users after announcing plans to ban kratom, a plant gaining popularity for its opiate-like effects, the Washington Post reports. Kratom, which originates in Southeast Asia, has become more widespread in the U.S., fueled by online testimonials from users and a lack of federal regulation. Advocates say the plant, which typically is crushed and mixed or brewed with water, poses few health risks while helping users relieve severe pain and overcome addictions to powerful prescription painkillers.
A DEA spokesman said the agency has received a surprising number of comments about the ban and could ease the restrictions after further research. The Food and Drug Administration began seizing some kratom shipments from overseas in 2014. This summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that annual calls to poison-control centers related to kratom use rose from 26 in 2010 to 263 last year. States have been banning the substance: Alabama and Arkansas outlawed it earlier this year, joining four others — Indiana, Wisconsin, Vermont and Tennessee, says the American Kratom Association. DEA has announced a temporary federal ban on kratom beginning Sept. 30.