Cartels Ditch Pot and Opium Fields for Synthetic Drugs, Mexico Defense Secretary Says

As the wholesale price-per-pound of legal cannabis plummets in some states bordering Mexico, cartels in the country are shifting to more lucrative drugs: fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-45, thanks in part to criminal involvement in multiple countries.

Texas is the only state bordering Mexico without adult-use cannabis, and it shows in the prices. Mexico’s cartels once relied on organic farms of poppies and cannabis to produce drugs, but the times have changed. Illicit cannabis eradication in Mexico was slashed in half in recent years—aligning with the timeline of pot legalization up north.

Mexico’s Secretary of Defense, General Luis Cresencio Sandoval said that for cartels, cannabis and other organic drugs like opium-rich poppies are out, and fentanyl is in. 

The Associated Press reports that according to Sandoval, seizures of fentanyl soared 525 percent during the first three years of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s reign, who took office December 1, 2018, compared to the previous three years. 

During that time period, law enforcement agents seized 1,232 pounds (559 kilograms) of fentanyl in 2016-2018 and 7,710 pounds (3,497 kilograms) in 2019-2021.  

The reason for the switch is that the bottom line improves when cartel operations shift from organic opiate to synthetic opioids, which are cheaper to produce. “There was a change in consumption, there was a change in drug markets due to the ease of producing synthetic drugs,” Sandoval said. Cartels no longer have to pay for manpower to grow poppies and slowly scrape the opium that oozes from the poppy bulbs. The same could be said about the growing/trimming/curing process for cannabis.

But the synthetic drugs don’t originate from Mexico. Mexican cartels can order fentanyl online from Asia at wholesale value, then cut it up into doses ready for the street. Labs also produce drugs like meth, which is also more profitable than organic cannabis or opium. “The laboratories that have been discovered or seized in this administration have had larger capacities, which has allowed us to seize a larger quantity of methamphetamine products,” Sandoval said.

Meth seizures soared from 120,100 pounds (54,521 kilograms) in 2016-2018 to nearly 275,000 pounds (124,735 kilograms) in the last three years—a 128 percent increase. On November 18, a record-breaking amount of meth and fentanyl were discovered being delivered from a trucker at the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego, according to a report by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of California. Border agents found 17,584 pounds of methamphetamine and 388.93 pounds of fentanyl in the truck.

Mexico’s data matches recent documents updated on October 14, and compiled by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which operates within the Library of Congress, working directly for members of Congress. “Despite early supply chain disruptions, U.S.-bound illicit drug supplies appear to have returned to pre-pandemic levels; illicit fentanyl flows in particular appear to be thriving,” CRS reported. Just a year earlier, the CRS admitted that legal cannabis in particular is hurting cartels in another document. “Authorities are projecting a continued decline in U.S. demand for Mexican marijuana because drugs ‘other than marijuana’ will likely predominate,” CRS wrote. “This is also the case due to legalized cannabis or medical cannabis in several U.S. states and Canada, reducing its value as part of Mexican trafficking organizations’ portfolio.”

Meanwhile, Mexico’s Senate is on track to endorsing recreational cannabis.

Still, some cartel operations plan on selling cannabis, legal or not. The Daily Beast reports that the Sinaloa cartel are already working on infiltrating the legal pot market in Mexico, according to “cartel operatives.” It’s unclear how the cartel plans to move forward, such as muscling its way into licensing.

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New York City’s Supervised Injection Sites Call for Biden’s Support

Only a few weeks after opening, supervised injection sites in New York City have potentially saved dozens of lives, leading city leaders to call on the Biden administration to authorize the use of similar harm reduction programs nationwide.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s health department announced on November 30 that the nation’s first publicly recognized overdose prevention centers (OPCs) had commenced operations in the city. Also commonly known as supervised injection sites, OPCs offer people a safe place to consume illicit drugs under the supervision of staff trained to intervene in the event of an overdose.

Other services including clean needle exchange, HIV testing and referrals to addiction treatment programs are often commonly available at supervised injection sites.

De Blasio, who has been calling for an OPC pilot program since 2018, noted that more than 2,000 people died of a drug overdose in New York City in 2020, the highest number since reporting began in 2000. Nationwide, more than 90,000 people died of an overdose in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the worst year ever recorded.

Supervised Injection Sites Save Lives

Internationally, supervised injection sites have been saving lives for decades. Research over 30 years at more than 100 such facilities has proven the efficacy of such programs. No overdose deaths have ever been recorded at a supervised injection site, and research has also shown that the sites reduce public drug use, litter from syringes and drug-related crime in surrounding neighborhoods.

“After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city, and we will not hesitate to take it,” de Blasio said in a statement at the time. “Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible.”

Council Member Mark Levine, chair of the City Council Health Committee, said that “NYC has taken historic action against the mounting crisis of opioid deaths with the opening of the nation’s first overdose prevention centers.”

“This strategy is proven to save lives, and is desperately needed at a moment when fatalities are rising fast,” Levine added. “I applaud the city as well as the providers who offer these lifesaving services for this bold approach to stopping this crisis.”

The city’s OPCs are operated by outreach and education group New York Harm Reduction Educators, which has opened two supervised injection sites at existing facilities in Harlem and Washington Heights. As of December 14, only two weeks into the program, the two sites had registered 350 participants and staff had already reversed 43 overdoses, according to a report from WNYC/Gothamist.

City Leaders Seek Support from Biden Administration

The success of New York’s OPCs has led a group of city leaders to call on the administration of President Joe Biden to support federal authorization of supervised injection sites nationwide. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal to operate, own or rent a location for the purpose of using illegal drugs. 

In an op-ed published on December 15, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance called on Biden to provide legal protection for OPCs to open across the country. 

They noted that in April, New York had joined the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Somerville, Massachusetts, in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking the Justice Department to deprioritize enforcement of federal drug laws against supervised injection sites. But so far, no response has been received from federal officials.

The civic leaders also noted that Biden had recently become the first president to include harm reduction in his drug policy priorities and said that New York’s OPCs could be a model for the nation. Under the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March, $30 million was appropriated to state, local and tribal governments and organizations for overdose prevention and harm reduction services.

“It is time to embrace bold strategies in the face of public health crises, even if they may seem radical at first,” they wrote in the BuzzFeed News op-ed. “Thirty years ago, in the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, New York City activists started one of the first syringe service programs in the country and, as a result, reduced HIV transmission among people who inject drugs, averting countless deaths.”

“We urge the Biden administration to endorse overdose prevention centers, empowering state and local jurisdictions to fully leverage their resources and authority to build healthier and safer cities, towns and communities,” the civic leaders concluded.

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U.S. Reports More Than 100,000 Overdose Deaths In One Year

More than 100,000 people succumbed to overdose deaths in the United States in the span of a year, a record death toll that underscores the continuing failure of the War on Drugs to keep the nation safe.

During the 12-month period ending April 2021, 100,306 Americans died of drug overdoses, according to provisional data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday. Federal officials point to the coronavirus pandemic and the proliferation of powerful synthetic opioids including fentanyl as major contributors to the spike in overdose deaths over the past two years.

“These are numbers we have never seen before,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told the New York Times. Commenting on the human toll behind the statistics, Volkow noted that a majority of the deaths occurred among people aged 25 to 55.

“They leave behind friends, family and children, if they have children, so there are a lot of downstream consequences,” Dr. Volkow said. “This is a major challenge to our society.”

Overdose Deaths Add to Covid-19’s Toll

During the same time period, approximately 509,000 died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, while millions were left isolated due to quarantines and business closures. Volkow noted that the pandemic also led to border shutdowns that made powerful synthetic opioids including fentanyl easier to smuggle into the country than naturally produced but less potent and thus more bulky drugs including morphine and heroin.

“What we’re seeing are the effects of these patterns of crisis and the appearance of more dangerous drugs at much lower prices,” Volkow said to CNN. “In a crisis of this magnitude, those already taking drugs may take higher amounts and those in recovery may relapse. It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen and perhaps could have predicted.”

The new data, representing deaths from May 2020 through April 2021, reflects a 28.5 percent increase in the number of fatal overdoses in the United States compared to the same time period one year earlier and the first time deaths have exceeded 100,000 in one year. Synthetic opioids including fentanyl were up 49 percent over the year before, contributing to the vast majority (64 percent) of overdose deaths. Stimulants including methamphetamines were involved in about a quarter of overdose deaths, a jump of 48 percent over the previous year. The data also show more modest increases in the number of overdose deaths caused by natural opioids, cocaine and prescription medications.

Dr. Volkow said that while some drug users intentionally seek out fentanyl, others “may not have wanted to take it. But that is what is being sold, and the risk of overdose is very high.”

The pandemic also decreased the availability and access to treatment for substance use disorders. As the country reopens and life begins to return to normal, overdose deaths are likely to remain high if access to drug treatment and other interventions is not improved, experts says.

“Even if Covid went away tomorrow, we’d still have a problem. What will have an impact is dramatic improvement to access to treatment,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, medical director of opioid policy research at the Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

“These are deaths in people with a preventable, treatable condition. The United States continues to fail on both fronts, both on preventing opioid addiction and treating addiction,” he continued, adding that President Joe Biden should act on his campaign promises to address the continuing opioid crisis.

Access to Treatment Saves Lives

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy on Wednesday released model legislation to serve as a guideline for states to pass laws that increase access to naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse opioid overdoses. Other medications including buprenorphine can be prescribed to help those with opioid use disorder, but access to the drugs is also often limited. In October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a plan to combat drug overdoses, including federal support for harm reduction and recovery services and provisions that lessen barriers to substance abuse treatment.

“If we really want to turn the corner, we have to get to a point where treatment for opioid addiction is easier to access than fentanyl, heroin, or prescription opioids are,” Kolodny said.

Beth Connolly, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts substance use prevention and treatment initiative, said that improving access to drug treatment and emergency interventions can help bring down the spike in overdose deaths.

“The evidence is really clear that using medications to treat opioid addiction disorders saves lives,” said Connolly. “As we see more and more evidence that (medication) does save lives, that will hopefully reduce stigmatizing and categorizing in favor of supporting individuals.”

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Canadian Groups Gives Free Weed And Edibles To Fight Opioid Abuse

Volunteer groups in Canada are providing relief to people struggling with addiction by giving away free marijuana and cannabis edibles as a substitution for opioids. Addiction experts, however, are wary that the unproven treatment might prevent people with opioid use disorder from seeking evidence-based therapies that have proven to be effective.

In London, Ontario, volunteers with the Cannabis Substitution Program set up a table outside a church each Tuesday to distribute packages of free cannabis and edibles to people who use drugs. Members of the group maintain that high doses of THC, as much as 100 milligrams baked into an edible, can serve as a substitute for opioids and other dangerous drugs while treating the symptoms of withdrawal. 

Since launching in April, the program has been popular, with up to 200 people showing up each week and forming a line that stretches down the block. Members of the group say that the cannabis it distributes is paid for and donated by private individuals.

Stefan Nichol, outreach director at Impact Church and a supporter of the substitution program, said that while cannabis is not a definitive treatment for opioid addiction and withdrawal, it can provide relief to those trying to break the cycle of drug abuse.

“To be honest, weed will never cure dope sickness,” Nichol told the CBC. “But it does help people sleep through a day of it.”

Cannabis Substitution Program volunteer Mary McCarty said that organizers began holding the weekly events to help address the city’s opioid epidemic after learning of similar initiatives in Vancouver, British Columbia and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“I thought, ‘You know what? London needs one of these,’” McCarty said. “It’s ridiculous what’s going on.”

In Halifax, volunteers with the East Coast Cannabis Substitution Program put together packages of cannabis to be handed out to people who use drugs every Monday. When CBC News visited the group at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, each package included a roll-your-own joint kit, a cannabis gummy, THC capsules, and edibles including chocolate, cookies and a meatloaf slider.

Volunteer Chris Backer, who travels to the city’s north end each week to hand out the packages, says that he believes the donations can help people quit more dangerous drugs. 

“It’s breaking the cycle of addiction,” he said last year. “Cannabis has been documented to be very successful and is an adjunct to try to help beat addiction.”

Addiction Experts Skeptical of Weed and Edibles as Substitute

Addiction experts including Steven Laviolette, professor in the School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University in London, however, are skeptical of using cannabis for those struggling with opioid abuse.

“I’m not aware of any evidence to suggest that would be effective as a substitute for opioid-related dependence and addiction,” he said.

But Laviolette acknowledged that cannabis may have a place in treating some forms of addiction. He has conducted research into the use of CBD as a treatment for amphetamine addiction.

“We were able to show that it quite literally blocked the activation of these drugs on the dopamine neurons, so the neurons would stop firing in the presence of CBD,” he said. “That has really strong implications for CBD as an anti-addiction treatment.”

Laviolette noted that researchers in the U.S. are also studying CBD’s potential as a treatment for opioid addiction. But he says that THC may pose a risk to some people with addiction disorders.

“THC has been shown to cause overactivation of addiction pathways in the brain,” he said. “It could make it even worse because THC would be ramping up the brain’s addiction pathways and could potentially make problems like relapse and withdrawal an even greater issue for people suffering with opioid dependence.”

Dr. Samuel Hickcox, the physician lead for addictions medicine at Nova Scotia Health, said that the cannabis substitution programs do not have “high-quality scientific evidence” to support their effectiveness. He fears that people will turn to cannabis instead of medications that have been proven to be an effective treatment for opioid addiction.

“That really worries me because we know that people who have an opioid addiction, if they are on medications like Suboxone or methadone, that their health will improve. They’re much less likely to have fatal overdoses,” he said. “If we take that away from people by offering an unproven alternative, we run the risk of actually causing more harm than benefit.”

McCarty, however, says that she has witnessed how the gifts of cannabis can positively impact those struggling with addiction.

“People come and thank us all the time,” she said.

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Hulu’s Dopesick Hammers Purdue Pharma for Role in Opioid Crisis

Last week, NPR TV critic and adjunct professor at Duke University Eric Deggans hosted a Twitter Spaces discussion on Hulu’s Dopesick—asking hard questions such as whether or not Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family are responsible for their roles in the opioid crisis.

The Sackler family’s private company Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin® in 1996—ushering a new era of powerful painkillers. Documents made public last year show how Purdue Pharma actively pushed for more prescriptions of painkillers.

Has the opioid crisis improved? Absolutely not. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a “record high” of drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in March 2021—overwhelmingly led by opioids. It’s a complex problem, as opioid restrictions due to the crisis also prevent people with actual pain from receiving their meds.

The limited series on Hulu was created by Danny Strong and stars Michael Keaton, Rosario Dawson, Peter Sarsgaard and William Jack Poulter. Keaton stars as Dr. Samuel Finnix, who caught in the middle of a crisis between drug manufacturers and patients. The limited series is inspired by the New York Times bestseller Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America, written by author Beth Macy.

Macy’s book and the corresponding Hulu series tackle the opioid crisis with a specific focus on Purdue Pharma. The first three episodes of the eight-episode series were released on October 13, 2021, and the latest episode aired Wednesday.

Who’s to Blame for the Opioid Crisis?

The New Yorker tore into the Sackler family’s reputation in 2017calling the Sacklers “the family that built an empire of pain,” adding that through their “ruthless” marketing of painkillers, millions have died.

In recent years, there has been a massive reckoning. Last year, the Department of Justice announced that Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty in federal court in New Jersey to a three-count felony, reaching a whopping $8 billion settlement. 

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. “With criminal guilty pleas, a federal settlement of more than $8 billion, and the dissolution of a company and repurposing its assets entirely for the public’s benefit, the resolution in today’s announcement re-affirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multi-pronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis.”

The Sacklers themselves were ordered to pay $4.5 billion, but were able to absolve themselves from some of the allegations. Judge Robert Drain, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York called the results bittersweet, because so much of the Sackler’s fortune was diverted to offshore banking accounts.

Then earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson and the “big three” distributors—McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health—agreed to pay a total sum of $26 billion for their roles in the opioid crisis.

The flux of opioids, eventually leading to fentanyl and other painkillers can be traced to Purdue Pharma’s brand of oxycodone. 

Cast as the Villain

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much accountability on the end of Big Pharma juggernauts like the Sacklers. “Abusers [of OxyContin] aren’t victims,” Richard Sackler wrote in a 2001 email. “They are the victimizers.”

But Deggans’ discussion asked whether or not the Sacklers should be cast as villains, given the complexity of the situation. He was joined in the Twitter Spaces discussion with NPR addiction correspondent Brian Mann, Dopesick author Beth Macy, Dopesick series creator Danny Strong and others.

“There’s so much we need to do, and a lot of it falls right under the umbrella… of unraveling the War on Drugs,” Macy said. “We [should] start treating people less like criminals, stop hammering abusers like Richard Sackler told us to do, and start treating these folks as people with a genuine medical condition, which is what they are.”

In Hulu’s series, Richard Sackler and his family are portrayed as the main villains, however the series does mix up some fact with fiction. Deggans contends that reality is a bit more complex, and that the opioid crisis cannot be analyzed in black and white.

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Everything You Need to Know About Kratom

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a flowering evergreen tree related to the coffee plant. It is indigenous to Southeast Asia but has been gaining popularity in western culture for its stimulating and pain-relieving effects. Kratom is used both recreationally and therapeutically, and just like cannabis, it’s incredibly controversial.

For quite some time now, the US Drug Enforcement Agency has been trying to add kratom to the Schedule I list of controlled substances. The available government information, plus a handful of misguided university studies, peg kratom as a “dangerous” plant with no known medical benefits. However, as a lifelong cannabis user, and someone who has watched weed transform from illegitimate and “dangerous” to a trending wellness product, I can say with certainty that we’re not getting the full story about kratom either.

When it comes to firsthand accounts from others, as well as my own personal experiences with the plant, and the hundreds of reports I’ve read online – everything indicates that kratom has therapeutic benefits that are worth investigating. As a matter of fact, the most common concern among consumers had nothing to do with the plant itself, but rather what will happen to them when they no longer have access to kratom products.

Kratom is made up of dozen of alkaloids, compounds which are known to hold medicinal value and have been studied independently for decades. Quite a few independent studies have noted the pharmaceutical potential of Kratom.

That’s not to say there are no risks. But, as is the case with any consumable product, some people may experience unexpected, adverse effects while the overwhelming majority do not. For the most part, people largely support the use of kratom and feel it’s vital to their quality of life – and when people talk, I think it’s important for us to listen.

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The chemistry behind the plant

Although scientific literature on Kratom is scarce, it’s been around for a while and has piqued the interest of a few select researchers from around the world. What we do know that a total of 26 alkaloids have been isolated from kratom, and many of these compounds have been studied individually.

Alkaloids are a class of basic, naturally occurring organic compounds that contain at least one nitrogen atom. They are produced by a large variety of organisms including bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals and can be purified from crude extracts of these organisms by acid-base extraction, or solvent extractions followed by silica-gel column chromatography. Alkaloids have a wide range of pharmacological activities and a lot of research to back this  up.

The most abundant alkaloid in Kratom is mitragynine, and for decades it was also believed to be the most potent. Then in 2002, a group of Japanese researchers found a variant called 7-hydronitragynine was discovered. This minor compound is extremely potent, more powerful than morphine, and despite being found only in trace amounts, it’s responsible for most of kratom’s pain-fighting properties. Further research has determined that both alkaloids act as partial opioid receptor agonists by activating the supraspinal mu- and delta- opioid receptors. 

Kratom’s many chemical compounds

The alkaloid structure of kratom bares many similarities to those of other psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin, but no mind-altering effects of that nature have even been reported after kratom use. Rather, kratom can be energizing and increase focus at low doses, and act as a depressant at higher doses. Regardless of the amount ingested, a certain level of pain relief can also be expected, thanks to kratom’s many alkaloid compounds.

Researchers have been able to isolate the following 26 alkaloids from kratom: Ajmalicin, 7-acetoxymitragynine, Corynantheidin, Corynoxein, Corinoxin, 3-Dehydromitragynin, (-)-Epicatechin, 3-Isocorynantheidin, 3-Isopaynanthein, Isomitraphyllin, Isospeciofolin, Isospecionoxein, Mitraciliatin, Mitrafolin, Mitragynalin , Mitraphylin, Mitraspecin, Mitraversin, Paynanthein, Speciociliatin, Speciofolin, Speciogynin, Specionoxein, Speciogynin, Speciofolin, and Stipulatin.

In total, kratom actually contains over 40 chemical compounds, but we’ll narrow it down to the three most important ones, 7-Hydroxymitragynine, Mitragynine and (-)-Epicatechin.

7-HYDROXYMITRAGYNINE

7-Hydroxymitragynine is technically a minor compound in kratom, but it’s by far the most potent, making it the main active ingredient in kratom powders and other products. This alkaloid has opioid agonistic activity and interacts with the three major opioid sites Kappa, Delta and Mu.

MITRAGYNINE

Mitragynine is an indole alkaloid that was isolated for the first time by D. Hooper in 1907. It’s the most abundant compound in kratom, and until 2002 was believed to be the most potent, although the latter turned out to not be the case. Small doses bind to the Delta receptors and act as a stimulant, while larger doses bind to the Mu receptors and have sedative effects.

(-)-EPICATECHIN

Epicatechin is a versatile flavanol that has anti-inflammatory effects and can help protect against free radicals. Epicatechin is one of the most abundant flavonoids present in different fruits such as apples, blackberries, broad beans, cherries, grapes, pears, raspberries, cocoa, and tea leaves.

History of kratom use

Kratom use spans back centuries and it’s hard to argue with a plant that has existed around humans for so long and has so many people and from different regions and cultures advocating for it.

As with most of the existing natural and holistic remedies, kratom use can be traced back to traditional Eastern medicine. Historically, in regions such as the Philippines and New Guinea, the chopped leaves were chewed or brewed into tea by local manual laborers who needed to stave fatigue and improve productivity at work. Additionally, various kratom preparations have been used during social and religious ceremonies and to treat numerous different medical conditions.

In Western literature, Kratom was first noted in the early 19th century but Dutch botanist Willem Korthals, who worked for the East India Company, an English company formed for to exploit trade options between the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and India. Researcher E. M. Holmes also referred to Kratom’s use as an opium substitute, identifying it specifically as Mitragyna speciosa in 1895.

Medical benefits

Again, official studies on kratom are lacking, but a recent survey of more than 2,700 self-reported users conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that a large majority of people are using this plant to alleviate pain. They also concluded that kratom “likely has a lower rate of harm and abuse” than prescription opioids, which are responsible for almost 50,000 deaths in the United States every year.

In a report on the findings, published in the Feb. 3 issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the researchers caution that “ while self-reporting surveys aren’t always entirely reliable, they confirmed that kratom is not regulated or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and that scientific studies have not been done to formally establish safety and benefits.”

According to American Kratom Association (AKA), a consumer advocacy group, an estimated 10 to 16 million people in the U.S. are using kratom regularly. Kratom is full of alkaloids, which are present in many aspects of human life, including much of what we consume. Alkaloids have showed anti-inflammatory, anticancer, analgesics, local anesthetic and pain relief, neuropharmacologic, antimicrobial, antifungal, and many other activities

Benefits of kratom use include but are not limited to: elevated mood, increased energy, healthy and restful sleep, boosted energy, muscle relaxation, natural aphrodisiac, eliminate social anxiety, pain relief, and it can be used to help minimize the symptoms of withdrawal from illicit drugs.  

Risks and adverse reactions

The jury is still out on what exactly the risks of kratom are, and whether they outweigh the benefits or not. Clueless researchers who have no firsthand experience with the plant say “yes” the risks are far too great, whereas anecdotes from people who have been using kratom regularly for years say “no” it’s totally safe and beneficial for overall wellness and quality of life.

That said, some people actually do have negative reactions to kratom such as high blood pressure and seizures. I feel like it’s important to emphasize that this can happen with anything though, just like people can have allergic or other physical reactions to perfectly healthy foods and natural compounds.

Data from the Poison Control states that, between 2011 and 2017, call centers in the United States received about 1,800 reports that involved kratom use – although many of them were more a combination of paranoia and hypochondria rather then any real physical symptoms. Additional side effects can include dry mouth, dizziness, drowsiness, hallucinations, shortness of breath, and chills.

In the same vein as other pain medications, problems with negative side effects typically occur when kratom is used in unusually high doses or for a prolonged period of time. From what I’ve read, all of the negative experiences with kratom involved the use of highly concentrated extracts, not the bulk powered or teas that most people are using.

Final thoughts

So, now that you’re more informed on the inner workings of this natural pain reliever, you’re probably wondering if kratom is right for you. Ultimately, that’s up to you to decide, but it’s certainly a sought-after, natural pain-reliever for anyone who doesn’t have a medical condition that would prevent them from using kratom.

What are your experiences with the plant? What are your favorite kratom products? If you have an opinion on the matter, we would love to hear more from you! Drop us a line in the comment section below and don’t forget to subscribe to the CBD Flowers Weekly Newsletter for more information on flowers and exclusive deals on flowers and other products.  

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