DEA Drops Ban on Herbal Supplement Kratom – By Alicia A. Caldwell, STAT on October 12, 2016


The agency faced a fierce backlash from users who call the plant a safer alternative to opioid painkillers

Kratom pills. Credit: JOE RAEDLE, Getty Images

Kratom pills. Credit: JOE RAEDLE, Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration has reversed a plan to temporarily ban a plant that some users suggest could be an alternative to powerful and addictive opioid painkillers.

In a notice set to be published Thursday in the Federal Register, the agency said it was withdrawing its plan to add two psychoactive components of the plant, known as kratom, to the list of the most dangerous drugs.

Advocates urging the DEA to leave kratom off its list of controlled substance have argued that it can be used as a nonaddictive painkiller or can help wean people off other, addictive pain medications. Some lawmakers also complained that the DEA wasn’t being transparent in its effort to ban the plant.

Adding kratom to the DEA’s list of schedule 1 drugs would define the plant as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

In a letter to the DEA last month, the American Kratom Association said the agency was being overly aggressive in categorizing kratom with other dangerous and highly addictive drugs, including a variety of synthetic drug compounds including synthetic marijuana and “bath salts.”

The association and the Botanical Education Alliance applauded the DEA’s reversal.

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