Kratom: Still Legal, Still Dangerous

Legality is an important factor when it comes to drug use. A suburban mother or Wall Street executive, both of whom would never be found scoring drugs in a back alley, will take and often become addicted to Adderall. After all, it is a widely-prescribed pharmaceutical medication.

And there within lies the problem with kratom—it, too, is legal. Today, this drug is a source of great concern for a host of medical professionals nationwide.

Kratom is derived from the leaves of an evergreen tree native to southeast Asia. It is indigenous to such countries as Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where it has been used in traditional medicine since the 19th century.  Then, the leaves were either chewed or dried and boiled into a tea-like concoction. Now, the powder is placed in capsules and ingested orally or smoked.

Kratom has stimulant properties, but more important to today’s consumer, the dried leaves have a euphoric, psychotropic effect. Two of the drug’s compounds have a significant interaction with   receptors in the human brain, not unlike opiates. People also turn to kratom for pain relief and to help ameliorate the distressing symptoms of mental conditions such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Zealous advocates of kratom not only do not view this drug as a problem, they see it as the solution. Many believe that kratom can cure the opiate epidemic by serving as a step-down drug, not unlike methadone. In fact, when the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) tried to classify kratom as a schedule I drug in 2016, it was the kratom lobby that vehemently pushed back. With help from members of the House of Representatives, the efforts of the DEA failed.

Today, kratom is still considered to be a supplement, which is inherently problematic.  It is neither tested, nor approved by any governmental agency. Therefore, without any quality control, manufacturers can market kratom products contaminated by dangerous substances or laced with ingredients designed to mimic the product’s effectiveness.

By far, the most worrisome issue involving kratom is its possible addictive qualities. The jury is still out on whether addiction will result with extended use. Until appropriate testing is done, consumers should be very cautious when using this supplement.

About Marissa Hatcher, MSW, CADC

“I am passionate about my work at Timberline because I believe recovery is possible with help from others. We provide 12-step principles, DBT, spirituality, expression, and family therapy while being trauma aware.”

Marissa facilitates psycho-educational group therapy, completes substance use assessments, and takes on the leadership role of the Addictions Specialist team. She also individually meets with residents to support a better understanding and application of 12 step. Marissa is a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Provider, receiving her certification in 2016. Prior to joining Timberline Knolls, Marissa worked in outpatient substance treatment with clients who were reentering the community from incarceration.

Marissa received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Communications and her Master’s Degree in Social Work specializing in Substance Counseling from Aurora University.

View all posts by Marissa Hatcher, MSW, CADC