The popular herbal beverage kratom offers pain relief and mood enhancement, similar to prescription painkillers. Advocates say the substance, which presents little to no overdose risk, could help reduce the nation’s reliance on highly addictive and often deadly prescription painkillers. Some addiction experts argue the plant could be used as an alternative to methadone, buprenorphine and Vivitrol in medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction. With growing concerns about the dangers of prescription painkillers, an estimated 3 million to 5 million people are using kratom and reporting positive results. Worries that the unregulated plant product could be abused for its mild euphoric qualities and users could become addicted are spurring federal officials to issue public health warnings — and a handful of states and cities to impose bans, Stateline reports.
Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia have banned kratom, along with at least three cities — Denver, San Diego and Sarasota, Fl. Legislation was considered last year in at least six other states. Animal studies have shown that kratom use may lead to addiction. User surveys indicate that although the herb can be habit-forming, withdrawal symptoms are no worse than those encountered when quitting coffee, sugar or certain herbal supplements. Withdrawal symptoms, which typically last three to four days, include muscle aches, cravings, a runny nose, restlessness and mood swings. The Drug Enforcement Administration last year said it intended to classify the herbal supplement as an illegal Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin, LSD and marijuana. After public demonstrations, letters from Congress and a petition with more than 142,000 signatures, the agency put the proposal on hold.