How the DEA’s Second Look at Kratom Impacts Migraineurs

The kratom plant has become big news over the last few months largely as a result of the DEA’s expressed desire to ban the herb and label it a Schedule 1 drug. After astounding public outcry, however, the DEA has rescinded the ban (which was to take place Sept. 30, 2016) and re-opened the issue for public comment. This is good news for the tens of thousands of U.S. citizens who use the plant medicinally, especially those with chronic pain – like migraineurs.

Medicinal users state the plant provides pain relief without the withdrawal symptoms and side effects (like itching and respiratory depression) often associated with opioids. Many kratom users also report a reduction in anxiety, a condition that is frequently comorbid with other chronic conditions like migraine, as well as muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory effects.

In addition to these pain-relieving properties, many medicinal users take kratom as a way to wean off opioid abuse. In fact, the herb – which is related to coffee – has been used in its native Thailand to wean opium addicts and manage withdrawal symptoms for at least nine decades. (A reality that contributed to its criminalization after the Thai government saw a severe decrease in revenues from taxes on the opium trade.)

Typically consumed in leaf, capsule, or powder form, the herb also can be brewed into a tea or extracted into water. Side effects from high dosages may include nausea and/or constipation. Like with other pain relieving substances, there does appear to be some risk of dependence or addiction, but the risks appear much lower than with opioids - seemingly not enough, according to researchers, to warrant an outright ban on the substance.

As of now, the plant can be purchased online and in many local shops, except for in the six states where the plant is illegal (Alabama, Arkansas Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin). Chronic pain patients and migraineurs who are interested in trying the plant should discuss options with their doctor prior to December, as there is no way to know which direction the DEA will eventually take on kratom. (Also, those who are interested in how the plant affects migraine should stay tuned for two patient perspectives coming soon.)

It is worth noting that most researchers – in the U.S. and abroad – consider an outright ban on the plant to be ill-advised and potentially harmful to citizens, especially since a ban would prevent further scientific research. If you’d like to enter an official comment on the kratom plant with the DEA, instructions on doing so can be found here: Electronic and paper comments are being accepted, however, no comments will be accepted after 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, December 1, 2016.

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