Kratom: What is it? Why does State Senator Pam Helming want sales curbed to minors?
It is banned altogether in eight states. Several states have defined kratom as a synthetic drug and controlled substance. Countries such as Australia, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden have made kratom illegal.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was initially moving to ban its sale as of 2016, citing an “imminent hazard to public safety.” The decision was delayed after members of Congress urged the DEA to delay the ban and give the public a chance to comment. The DEA also has asked the FDA to speed up a previously requested scientific and medical evaluation of kratom and a scheduling recommendation.
The agency says kratom has a high potential for abuse and no current medical use. But its announcement sparked outrage. Opponents rallied in front of the White House against the ban, and more than 142,000 people signed a petition asking the federal government to reconsider.
While kratom is believed to have some medical benefits, it is also believed to have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Research scientists were among those pushing to reverse the decision, saying a ban will harm their ability to study whether kratom can help treat pain and addiction. In the meantime, users rushed to buy the supplement before it became illegal.
Advocates say the herb kratom offers relief from pain, depression, and anxiety. Scientists say it may hold the key to treating chronic pain and may even be a tool to combat addiction to opioid medications.
Kratom is a tropical tree in Southeast Asia. Its leaves have been used for hundreds of years to relieve pain. They can be eaten raw, but more often they’re crushed and brewed as tea or turned into capsules, tablets, and liquids.
In low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant. In large amounts, it acts as a sedative, and the DEA says it can lead to psychotic symptoms and
psychological addiction. According to the CDC, about 42% of cases of kratom use reported between 2010 and 2015 involved non-life-threatening symptoms that required some treatment. About 7% of exposures were classified as major and life-threatening. The DEA says it knows of 15 kratom-related deaths between 2014 and 2016.
Kratom has been on the DEA’s list of drugs and chemicals of concern for several years. But the DEA notes that its use appears to be going up.
“We first saw it in our clinic two years ago and only see it sporadically,” said Wayne County Mental Health Director, James Haitz.
Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts, said he knows of a Sheriff in Florida whose county said it was a concern, but hasn’t seen the abuse of it in Wayne County yet.
Senator Pam Helming and Assemblyman Majority Leader Joe Morelle announced introduction of legislation (S6924/A8787) that will prohibit individuals under the age of 18 from purchasing, possessing, or using any products containing kratom. The bill would amend the public health law to define and regulate kratom as well as direct the New York State Department of Health to conduct a study on the benefits and risks of kratom.
Sena tor Helming learned about the potential dangers of kratom while attending the “High in Plain Sight: Substance Abuse Awareness & Prevention” event hosted by the Seneca Falls Central School District at the end of September. Kratom is a tropical tree in the coffee family originating in Southeast Asia, where it has been used as an herbal drug, and it is easily available to school-age children.
Despite the medical potential, there are serious concerns and unknowns with kratom. Until it is further researched, the sale of kratom to our children must be regulated. This legislation would do just that, prohibiting individuals under the age of 18 from purchasing or possessing kratom in any form.
“During my recent roundtable discussion on the heroin and opioid crisis, I was proud to announce
my sponsorship of this bill to prohibit minors from purchasing kratom. It is important that we regulate and control its sale to minors. This legislation shows that we take seriously the addiction crisis that is plaguing our families and communities instead of just paying lip service to it. I look forward to advocating for this measure in the upcoming legislative session, and I thank Assemblyman Morelle for his partnership on this measure,” Senator Helming said.
“Substance abuse is a scourge plaguing communities across our state, spanning all socioeconomic backgrounds, and devastating countless families and individuals both young and old. Regulating the sale and usage of kratom is a critical step toward protecting our young people from the perils of addiction. I am grateful to Senator Helming for her partnership on this important bipartisan legislation, and I remain committed to advocating for further education and research on the effects of kratom so we may better safeguard our communities,” Assembly Majority Leader Morelle said.
Kratom can be easily obtained in many convenience stores, packaged to attract younger users. Forms of the drug can be purchased at Walmart, pharmacies and online sites.