People Are Fighting to Keep Their Kratom High Legal

When the DEA announced plans to ban the supplement, tens of thousands of users petitioned the agency.
January 26, 2017, 7:34pm

Around 3 AM, the morning after Mother's Day in 2015, Nick Barth was coming home from his restaurant job when he was robbed at gunpoint and shot in the leg. The bullet missed the bone, didn't hit any major vessels, but it tore through about eight inches of his leg, doing extensive nerve damage. The damaged nerves caused more pain than the wound, because he was walking on muscles he could no longer fully control. He went to physical therapy and cycled through the prescription opioids, muscle relaxers, and a nerve-pain suppressant. "For the first three or four months I pretty much lived on my parents' couch," he says, "I would wake up in pain, take some painkillers, and fall asleep about an hour later. Wake up groggy and in pain, take some more, and fall asleep." Then a videogaming friend recommended kratom, a plant that users say can help with chronic pain, anxiety, and PTSD. Others have used it to wean themselves from opioids, saying that, for them, it has a similar effect, but without the same addictive qualities. It's also drawn more attention lately, particularly since late last year, after the Drug Enforcement Administration announced a plan to temporarily place kratom on the list of Schedule 1 drugs, including heroin, LSD, marijuana, and MDMA—those defined as unsafe, having no accepted medical use in the United States, and with a high potential of abuse. Previously, kratom had largely been off the regulatory radar, sold as a dietary supplement and often shipped in packages labeled "not for human consumption." As a Schedule 1 drug, kratom would be outlawed. And because the DEA was invoking its emergency scheduling powers, the public had no right to comment. Read more on Tonic