Sept. 19, 2016 — Advocates say the herb kratom offers relief from pain, depression, and anxiety. Scientists say it may hold the key to treating chronic pain and may even be a tool to combat addiction to opioidmedications.
But the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was initially moving to ban its sale as of Sept. 30, citing an “imminent hazard to public safety.” The DEA in August announced it would make kratom a Schedule 1 drug — the same as heroin, LSD, marijuana, and ecstasy.
The decision was delayed after members of Congress urged the DEA to delay the ban and give the public a chance to comment.
The DEA has withdrawn its intent to make kratom a Schedule 1 drug and established a public comment period through Dec. 1, according to a preliminary document available on the Federal Register website and set to be published on Oct. 13.
The DEA “has received numerous comments from members of the public challenging the scheduling action and requesting that the agency consider those comments and accompanying information before taking further action,” Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator, wrote in the preliminary document.
The DEA also has asked the FDA to speed up a previously requested scientific and medical evaluation of kratom and a scheduling recommendation.
The agency says kratom has a high potential for abuse and no current medical use. But its announcement sparked outrage. Opponents rallied in front of the White House against the ban, and more than 142,000 people signed a petition asking the federal government to reconsider.
Some research scientists were among those pushing to reverse the decision, saying a ban will harm their ability to study whether kratom can help treat pain and addiction. In the meantime, users rushed to buy the supplement before it became illegal.
Groups opposing the ban applauded the DEA’s action.
“Everyone needs to understand that this is just the beginning of the fight and much more work remains to be done,” says a joint statement issued by the American Kratom Association and the Botanical Education Alliance. “We cannot and will not rest until the cloud created by the DEA is completely removed.”
Here’s what we know about kratom.