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Blaming the Medicine for the Disease:
Kratom and the Opiate Epidemic

A report was released recently by the Center for Disease Control, which claimed that kratom was linked to 91 deaths over an 18-month period from July 2016 to December 2017. That is 91 deaths out of 27,338 overdoses. Of the 91, only 7 tested positive for only containing kratom. The rest of the deaths reported in this study were shown to involve a combination of kratom and other substances including Fentanyl, heroin and Valium.

So what does this study mean? Is kratom dangerous? Or are there those with interests to outlaw kratom?

According to the American Kratom Association there are five million people are currently using kratom regularly. Many use it as a form of pain alleviation to respond to a problem of over prescribed opiate medications while others use it to wean off opiates that may have been legally prescribed or not. While the root cause of the opiate epidemic was opiates over-prescribed by doctors in concert with insurance companies, big pharma and of course politicians, that fact has conveniently been forgotten and the focus shifted to the rising popularity of kratom. From the initial development steps to when product hits market, most pharmaceuticals can take up to ten years. Naturally, those in pain would seek any available alternatives they can find. A hopeful solution to help those with seemingly intractable addiction problems, has now become the target of all the rage.

It would not be completely honest to assume that kratom has no potential for harm or abuse. Any product that purportedly treats a problem, bears some sort of risk and requires responsible usage practices.

The report showed that 7 people died from kratom alone and we’re not saying that kratom wasn’t the cause because it’s likely that it bore some responsibility. However, out of five million users 7 is a small number especially considering the fact that it’s an unregulated product and people are using different variants of kratom in tinctures, concentrates and more.

Out of the 91 deaths reported by the CDC most can agree kratom played a significant role in 7 of the deaths. However, given the high overdose rate from Fentanyl, heroin and vallium it wouldn’t be obvious that the remaining deaths should be blamed on kratom since those drugs were present as well. When access to these variations are allowed, one can consume much larger amounts of the active alkaloids than if there was only access to plain leaf.

What would happen if there was a national ban on kratom? How many people out of the 5 million who use it to manage their pain or past addiction would seek out something to replace it or relapse? That answer is unknown just like to the answer to how we solve the opiate crisis. Only time will tell.

In 2016, the CDC tried to Schedule 1 kratom but failed. They failed because of the outcry from all the people who benefit so much from it and whose life would take a deep dive in quality if access to kratom was blocked off. Prohibition was proven not work with more dangerous substances like alcohol. If the argument for banning kratom is because it does more harm than good, than what about alcohol? Kratom actually improves many lives while alcohol ruins many people’s’ lives? It smells a lot like hypocrisy. The drive to paint kratom as a dangerous substance causing overdoses is blatantly obvious for what it is—the desperate attempt of interest groups to control and limit another part of citizens lives. It is cynical, authoritarian and frankly disgusting.

It is clear that kratom is not an opiate from analyses that have been done and by calling kratom an opiate is just another way to create a negative association with kratom. The main symptoms which show up after consuming opiates such as respiratory depression, drowsiness and comas, do not appear to those who consume kratom. Additionally, the brain’s receptors simply are not activated in the same way.


While we all agree that there is an opiate crisis, there is significant disagreement on how to deal with it. Do we criminalize the safest and most effective alternative out there, or do we instead regulate it under a comprehensive, accountable framework like CGMP to ensure best practices are kept? Kratom should certainly be continuously studied in tandem with increased market regulation. But throwing away a non-opiate product which is proven to help wean addicts off opiates in a safe way is not the right answer.


People who consume kratom and even people who don’t but who care about facts and freedoms, all must take a stand against the slander affecting those using kratom. We all know it’s a miracle to have a non-opiate which gives similar benefits of pain relief and relaxation in a safer way. All the half truths and twisted facts won’t change that. Luckily so far, kratom is available. However, we must be vigilant that those who try to manipulate the truth and spread misinformation, not succeed in slandering one of the safest forms of pain relief out there.

We must stand for the truth and speak out in support for kratom because the only way the truth will win is if enough people advocate for it. It doesn’t matter if you are a kratom consumer or not, we must stand up for what is right because the alternative is letting those with the biggest pockets win. Hashtag #kratomhelps and share your stories. Talk about what kratom did for you or someone you love. We need to spread awareness in opposition to this slander. If the media will paint Fentanyl overdoses as kratom’s fault, we must bring truth to power and make our voices heard. Who knows? Perhaps this may be the solution to the opiate crisis.


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This article is not to be construed as direction for use. It was written for advocacy purposes only. 

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