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The DEA Is About To Classify An Herbal Extract Used In Energy Drinks In The Same Category As Heroin

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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The Drug Enforcement Administration has targeted a supplement found in herbal drinks and diet pills for their notorious Schedule I status, WCPO Cincinnati reported Tuesday.

The substance, “kratom,” is made from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree in southeast Asia and attaches to the same receptors in the brain as opioids do. It can be found in a line of drinks from a company called Vivazen, and is intended to either relax the drinker or to promote “bliss” and focus.

WCPO notes one case where a mother claimed her son relapsed on heroin, and ultimately died, after drinking some Vivazen. She said that after being clean for three years, her son soon relapsed and blames the drink due to its opioid qualities.

Susan Ash of the American Kratum Association tells The Daily Caller News Foundation that kratom produces “nothing close” to the same high as an opioid like heroin does, unless taken in large amounts. There has been evidence that points to the potential of kratom to help people kick opioid drugs. A study from Christopher McCurdy of the University of Mississippi’s School of Pharmacy in 2013 also showed at least some promise of kratom helping ween mice off of opioid addiction.

“Mitragynine (an alkaloid in kratom) completely blocked all withdrawal symptoms and could provide a remarkable step-down-like treatment for people addicted to hardcore narcotics such as morphine, oxycodone or heroin,” McCurdy told Ole Miss News.

Barbara Carreno, spokesperson at the DEA headquarters, tells TheDCNF the reason for the potential scheduling of kratom is because there has been an increase in the number of calls to U.S. Poison Control centers. From 2010 to 2015, there were 660 calls relating to kratom exposure, according to the Office of the Federal Register.

McCurdy notes in his study that some of the incidence’s of poisoning were due to other substances in the kratom, like hydrocodone, having been added to it. Which seems to make the case for regulation of kratom, not necessarily a banning, to make sure the kratom is not tainted with other substances that may negatively interact.

Carreno also told TheDCNF that kratom can be used by addicts to skirt drug tests since there are no tests for it yet, but Ash said that there are companies that can test for it.

Ash, a former addict of legally prescribed medications for lyme disease which left her bed-ridden, said within just a couple weeks of taking kratom she was able to get off opioid prescriptions completely and get her life back. She said the cocktail of prescription drugs she was on left her with little motivation for anything, a common complaint from those on opioids.

Oddly enough, despite the DEA saying there is no medicinal value, there is a U.S. patent, number 20100209542 A1, that says “[c]ompounds isolated from Kratom leaf extracts may be capable of allowing a patient to cease the administration of addictive compounds without experiencing physically debilitating withdrawal symptoms.” Which seems to call into question the DEA Schedule I classification.

Ash said that she was surprised the scheduling happened without a phone call to her organization from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration or the DEA. She says that she agrees with the DEA on some aspects of the drug, namely the number of poisonings is of concern, but says that is more an argument on why it should be regulated as medicine, so strict regulations and education can help curb those numbers while allowing many to treat their illness with opioid medications.

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