More than a dozen bills have already been proposed in the upcoming Oregon Legislature dealing with marijuana, but there is also one bill about a lesser-known herb unheard of by many, fiercely adored by some and almost banned by the DEA.
For millennia, people in Southeast Asia used the leaves from the tree Mitragyna speciosa — more commonly known as kratom — to combat fatigue and as a traditional medicine. This herb is often sold as a kratom powder or extract.
The herb’s modern proponents claim it can help with opioid withdrawal, pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Its detractors decry it as an “imminent hazard to public safety,” citing 15 kratom-related deaths in the United States during a two-year period.
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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has received thousands of comments on whether it should make a psychoactive painkiller called kratom illegal because some say it could be key to battling the country’s opioid epidemic.
The DEA announced in August that it would list kratom, which is typically sold as a powder in capsules or for tea and can produce both a narcotic and a stimulant effect, as a Schedule 1 drug — along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Schedule 1 drugs are illegal because they have a “high potential for abuse” and there is no existing research that would make it acceptable for medical use.
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You may not be familiar with the drug kratom, but many Americans are. Kratom is known to relieve pain and anxiety, and has often been used to ease the challenges of getting off of more harmful drugs, namely opioids. The DEA was slated to ban kratom until late September, when an outpouring of public activism by kratom users led to an indefinite delay on such a ban.
Earlier this year, the DEA announced its intent to place kratom on the list of Schedule I drugs. This is the most restrictive category of banned substances that includes drugs like heroin and LSD. The DEA describes a Schedule I like so: “Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and the potential to create severe psychological and/or physical dependence.” Kratom users have used the drug to help them kick their OxyContin habit. Despite being a far more addictive substance, OxyContin is a Schedule II drug. Advocates for kratom compare the drug’s addictive power to coffee. No deaths have been linked to the drug.
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