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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.

  • Heather Lynn Richmond

    Hi there. I just wanted to clear something up. Kratom IS NOT A DRUG!!! It is a leaf from a plant relative to the coffee plant. Saying that Kratom is a drug only leads to premature hysteria. I personally have used Kratom every day for the last 8 months to treat my chronic spine and arthritis pain instead of using the opioid drugs that every doctor in the free country wants to throw at chronic pain patients like tic tacs!! Not once has Kratom given me a ‘high’ only the relief of pain that I need to be a 46 year old wife, mother of four active kids and productive working member of society. Definitely this supplement should only be taken by children under adult supervision as should anything else a child would put in their body to combat an illness or ongoing chronic situation..just as a parent would oversee the administration of Tylenol or an antibiotic. Please do not however cause a hysteria in your community by calling this herbal miracle a drug.

  • Mark Natasha Cash

    Sadly the FDA has resorted to telling lies to try to get the public on its side to ban kratom. This plant is a miracle plant. I was in pain management for five years having to take oxycodone for my pain. When I tried kratom it not only has worked better for my pain than any opiate did it also completely got rid of any withdraws i had from taking the opiates for five years as well. My head is also no longer foggy from having to take the opiates every day. Kratom has given me back my life. The government is making a big mistake trying to ban it. They have an alternative to opiates for pain and withdraw and they want to ban it. This is the answer to the opiate crisis and no one wants to listen to those of us that really understand kratom. If anyone wants to talk to me about it I am more than willing to tell my story. The main thing is that we need to save this plant.

  • Liddy Marie

    The National Kratom Coalition stands behind Senator Helming and Assembly Majority Leader Morelle’s responsible decision to allow kratom availability to adults while restricting it to the still-devloping minds of our children.

  • Nichole Norh

    Synthetic means man made. Kratom is NOT synthetic. It’s a a plant related to the coffee family it comes from Indonesia. The pharmaceutical companies hate it because they are losing millions of dollars. People are switching to holistic healing instead of the drugs yes drugs that the FDA push. Have you read the warning labels for Lyrica, Gabapentin, Percocet, Tylenol, Asprin, Advil, and many more? Do you know how many people die a day from opiods average 91. Do you know how many die from Kratom just Kratom? Without any other substances in their system? Zero!! Every death the Kratom consumer had multiple substances in their system steroids, tramadol, the list is endless if you do your research. Not one person has died from Kratom alone. The fact is people who are not even recovering addicts use kratom. Every day average people use kratom as a dietary supplement. For multiple health benefits. Anything the Government can not profit from the do not like. #iamkratom #plantsnotpoison #keepkratomlegal #educationiskey ..please consider doing a follow up story with multiple Kratom consumers who are responsible adults. Thank you