The use of plant leaves for therapeutic purposes is controversial, and kratom is one of those plants that elicits passionate opinions.
Kratom, an herbal supplement, derived from the leaves of a tree found in Southeast Asia, is more potent than more well-known herbal products such as matcha and kava. However, kratom is less well known than marijuana. The wisdom of using kratom is debated among pain patient advocates, support organizations, doctors and regulators.
Kratom discussions came to the fore in Routt County this month when a former coach was accused of distributing kratom to high school athletes in Hayden and Steamboat Springs.
Known officially as Mitragyna speciosa, kratom is currently legal in the majority of Colorado – with the exception of Parker and Monument – for use by adults 21 and older.
The American Kratom Association, an advocacy group established in 2014, notes that Colorado is one of seven states that has passed a kratom consumer protection law. Five states have banned kratom and eight states have local bans. Otherwise, in the United States, kratom is legal and unregulated.
Following Colorado Senate Bill 22-120 approved in May 2022, selling kratom in Colorado to anyone under 21 could result in a civil offense and a $200 fine. The law also currently requires sellers to verify government-issued photo identification before selling kratom, according to Shannon Gray of the Marijuana Enforcement Division at the Colorado Department of Revenue.
The Protection Act provides a regulatory framework for the legal sale of kratom that will become stricter on July 1, 2024. The law will prohibit knowingly preparing, distributing, advertising, selling or offering to sell a contaminated kratom product with fentanyl or any other product. controlled substance. Kratom products sold will need to be labeled with the manufacturer and full list of ingredients.
Despite years of debate, there’s no doubt that kratom use should be restricted to knowledgeable adults, proponents say.
Kratom advocates Lisa Jacoby, 37, of Steamboat Springs, and Doug Person, 73, of Clark, say kratom has been beneficial in relieving their back pain from injuries and as an alternative to prescription opioids which have serious risks and side effects.
“If you had the choice between taking a synthetic opioid with the history of the epidemic that we all know exists or taking something from a coffee tree that has worked for people for centuries, I would choose the natural herb,” said Jacoby, who has worked in the medical field since 2006.
“Personally, I feel like my life was saved by this thing,” said Person, who seriously injured his back in 2007 and underwent spinal fusion surgery. “I took painkillers under the care of a doctor for 11 years. I started taking kratom and then reduced my narcotics intake until I was totally free and no longer suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
Four Routt County doctors, naturopathic doctors or clinics contacted by the Pilot & Today said they do not recommend kratom to their patients for various reasons. The suppliers, who did not want to be named, raised concerns about kratom finding clean, high-quality sources, possible side effects and interactions with other medications, and risks when not dosed at the appropriate levels.
Jacoby said proper dosage was a concern for her initially, so she started using low-dose kratom. By using too much or trying certain unsatisfactory brands, Jacoby experienced side effects such as nausea and constipation.
The American Kratom Association website lists brands that are committed to good manufacturing practices.
Kratom is sold at select tobacco and head shops in Steamboat and the Health Works health food store in Craig. Health Works director Daniel Wright said his clients tell him they use kratom primarily to relieve chronic pain from injuries, but some people mention use for stress and anxiety.
The management of Natural Grocers has chosen not to sell kratom. The company’s website notes that the United States Drug Enforcement Administration lists kratom as a “drug of concern.” Additionally, kratom is one of many substances not protected by the Health and Education Dietary Supplement Act, and the Food and Drug Administration has not approved kratom for medical use..
According to the DEA, kratom has long been used in Southeast Asia, and in low doses, kratom produces stimulating effects such as increased alertness, physical energy, and talkativeness. In high doses, users experience sedative effects.
“Like so many ‘illegal’ drugs, kratom has been called dangerous, addictive and of no medical value,” Person said. “There’s only been a handful of research, mostly because no one can make money researching the value of kratom. As an informed adult, if you read the research, I think you can make an informed decision about whether it might be beneficial and worth trying.
Jacoby said that along with kratom, she uses yoga and meditation to deal with chronic pain.
“I want people to know first and foremost that they have to do their own research,” Jacoby said. “Know your body and how it reacts to certain substances and ask yourself why you are taking them in the first place and what your other options are such as adjusting your diet and lifestyle.”
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.