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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 After astounding public outcry, however, the DEA has rescinded the ban (which was to take place Sept. 30, 2016) and re-opened the issue for public comment.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 Migraine.com 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: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-24659.pdf?utm_campaign=pi%20subscription%20mailing%20list&utm_source=federalregister.gov&utm_medium=email. Electronic and paper comments are being accepted, however, no comments will be accepted after 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, December 1, 2016.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Jojiieme
    3 years ago

    Sorry: that should read “slowed bowel motility”

    Why have we lost the ability to edit our replies?? I can’t correct spelling or grammar mistakes, or insert forgotten words. And autocorrect jumps in and makes me look more of an idiot. :/

  • Jojiieme
    3 years ago

    I’m really confused: the most recent pharmacology papers that I’ve read, some published just last month and which I quoted in a comment on your last Kratom article, make the point that Kratom’s several active components (not just the three usually cited) work on multiple kinds of opioid receptors simultaneously, all over our body. (Some are in our brains and I think some may be in our CNS? I’m not sure, it’s nearly 4am…) And yes, if you get the dose wrong or choose the wrong variety, you will experience depressed lung function, bowel motility, increased nausea, increased allodynia/itching, and eventually you may even experience some liver trouble.
    The doses recommended are quite small yet the doses I’ve read from people’s personal accounts appear to be twice or triple the recommended amounts, and on a far more frequent basis. This clearly indicates that the body’s becoming less attuned to the active components and yet the users aren’t noticing.
    I’m also very concerned that from what I’ve read I can’t see how I could be sure how much of any batch I purchase contains a guaranteed amount of active medication, so I know my dose is consistent each time. It’s not like buying tea, where the amount of flavonoids can vary from cup to cup: each dose should be as identical as possible, but because kratom is unregulated, the dose varies. (I have medication sensitivities and this truly frightens me)
    What really has me very very excited in chronic pain management research is a paper just published in PLoS on finding the biological basis for the placebo effect of medication, and how to reliably predict it. It turns out a previously unknown drug side effect is to activate this region, or to activate another which depresses responses to medication.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    3 years ago

    Sadly, JOJ, I don’t think anything available to us migraineurs at the moment can be classified as a “magical solution,” especially given how uniquely each of us experiences migraine disease and relief from migraine. Hopefully, we can all find something worthwhile in a discussion of everything that is now available or may become available to us in the future. 🙂

  • Jojiieme
    3 years ago

    Sarah, thanks for replying so promptly. 🙂
    I’m not trying to be a total wet blanket, I’m just naturally cautious and what I’m reading (which includes papers going back to 1932) isn’t convincing me that given what we know now about other nutritional influences and how they work with brain chemistry and pain management, it’s a magical solution. It seems at best a short-term solution for some lucky individuals. (Optimal use isn’t “as you need” but low dose, daily so it’s better as a preventive)
    My Asian-trained pharmacist, who’s usually good about various herbal and complementary approaches, won’t let me try any either. Something to do with interactions with the prescribed meds.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    3 years ago

    JOJ,

    I haven’t read the article you quoted in my last article, but I will, and I may have a follow-up piece to write once I do. It is worth noting, however, that most researchers and most papers I have read compare any/all risks associated with kratom use to the risks associated with opioids, as this is the medication many kratom users have used, abused, or become dependent upon. While it is certainly worthwhile to take a look at any and all of kratom’s potential side effects, it is equally worthwhile to compare those potential side effects with anything else that binds to the same receptors. From what I’ve read, opioid use is generally associated with higher risks of nausea, itching, dependency, addiction, and liver problems than a substitute like kratom. However, we should all do our own research and speak with our doctors before making any changes or additions to our treatment plans. I applaud you for taking the time to conduct your own. It is so important to play an active role in our health care!

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