Kratom, an herb, has gained in popularity as opioids have declined in popularity. The New York Times asks :"Is Kratom Nature's Answer to Opioids?" but there is an equally important question folded within that one: Is Kratom sufficiently opioid-like (from the coffee plant family but binds to certain parts of the brain much like opioids) to be scheduled like the most dangerous of drugs with no medicinal value?
Several states feel they have heard enough on this debate and banned Kratom outright. The FDA attempted an emergency Schedule One designation but, pushed back to the ordinary scheduling procedure, continues to consider the issue. HHS has asked the FDA to add Kratom to Schedule 1, so a fair amount is at stake.
What is so interesting to this particular scheduling debate is the argument over whether Kratom is the kind of drug that will help opioid addicts move away from opioids or whether Kratom is the kind of drug that will eventually lead its addicts to opioid addiction — either through abuse of Kratom itself; encouraging the move on to classic opioids; or increasing harm by the use of Kratom as part of a drug cocktail including opioids.
So, is Kratom a good herb or a bad herb? And, how would we know, when so little has been done to study its use in treating depression and chronic pain?