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Kratom, a naturally occurring plant from South East Asia that has recently gained popularity as a treatment for opiate addiction, is currently being debated in the US. For months the FDA and DEA have been looking into whether or not the substance should be banned.


On November 13, the US DEA spokesperson suggested that a decision would be announced soon. The timeline on the final decision on whether or not kratom will remain legal is still unclear, but a decision is coming.


Kratom has become a controversial substance in the drug industry. People who are struggling with opiate addictions claim the drug has cured them. However, kratom, which has opioid properties and stimulants the brain accordingly, has doctors concerned. Many believe that addicts are simply exchanging one opiate for another.


The FDA has gone as far to call kratom a dangerous opioid and seeking to ban it by making it a Schedule 1 drug like ecstasy and heroin.


Researchers are currently evaluating the two main components in kratom. The ruling could ban both ingredients or ban only one. Kratom has two main components that affect behavior- mitragynine (MG) and 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-HMG). These two components are the “yin and yang of kratom”.


The two components have different effects, similarly to how marijuana has THC and CBD. So far research seems to support that HMG could be harmful while MG seems to have a lot of therapeutic potentials. One possibility is that the HMG may be banned, while MG is allowed. This may halt import temporarily while growers figure out how to grow strains with more MG.


A recent study using rats showed just how harmful HMG is. The animals were given a chance to self-administer each ingredient by pushing a button. The rats took the opportunity to give themselves HMG but were uninterested in MG even when the dose was upped and incentives were given. This highlights just how addictive HMG can be, a huge concern for doctors.


For most addiction doctors they want time. Many wish there was a pause button on this new drug to give researchers time to properly study it. An FDA and DEA ban may make it harder to for scientists to study it but it also provides an opportunity for government-funded studies. Either way, it seems the US won’t have to wait too much longer to learn the fate of this new opiate.