NY Post Spreads DEA Disinformation Regarding Kratom

The New York Post recently published an article regarding kratom that relied heavily on blatant misinformation supplied by the DEA. The article claimed 10 percent of the 23,000 respondents to the call for public comments claimed they supported the DEA ban. They relied on a claim of 15 attributable deaths related to kratom that has been debunked numerous times. There was also an “anonymous source” who alleged serious withdrawal symptoms related to kratom. Kratom is a Southeast Asian plant related to coffee used for hundreds of years as a folk medicine that many consider to be a life-saver.

The claim that 10 percent of users experienced ill effects from kratom is in conflict with the analysis performed by the American Coalition of Free Citizens. The ACFC findings revealed the actual number to be just under 1 percent. The ACFC’s analysis found 99.1 percent of the 23,000 respondents were in favor of kratom. Only 113 of the 23,000 supported the DEA’s proposed extra-judicial ban. In addition, 48 percent of the respondents were veterans, law enforcement officials, health care professionals and scientists. This population of the respondents came out in favor of kratom and against a ban with a support level of 98.7 percent. Twenty-one percent of the filers who indicated age were 55 or older. Many users of kratom prefer the plant to prescribed pain medication because it is more effective and doesn’t have the same side effects of intoxication and addiction that pain pills do. The 90 percent figure offered by DEA spokesperson Melvin Patterson that the NY Post offers is completely fabricated.

Of the “15 cases of death attributed to kratom,” Dr. Babin cites academic papers regarding a forensic study that revealed 9 deaths attributed to kratom were connected to ingestion of the research chemical o-desmethyl-tramadol. Other deaths involved presence of other drugs in combinations that were more likely to prove fatal. To date, no deaths connected to kratom or its active constituents has occurred even in laboratory animals either due to respiratory depression, lethal overdose or other causes.

The New York Post also makes a point to mention how kratom can bind to the same receptors as opioids. This isn’t misinformation, per se, but it would be more honest to point out that milk, dairy products, and cheese have been shown to bind to opiate receptors as well. The coffee plant has also been shown in studies to result in “potent opiate receptor binding activity.” The coffee plant is actually closely related to kratom. Both are members of the Rubiaceae family. The difference is, caffeine overdose actually does lead to a small number of deaths per year, unlike kratom.

In addition to false claims regarding the percentage of people who experienced withdrawal symptoms from kratom and false claims regarding deaths attributable to kratom, the NY Post reported an “anonymous source” who experienced serious withdrawal from kratom involving vomiting. Multiple studies have confirmed that kratom doesn’t cause physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms are mild and comparable to caffeine withdrawal.

As for kratom being responsible for deaths, recently two coroners were debunked by lawyer and molecular biologist Dr. Jane C. Babin, PhD, molecular biology, Purdue University, and JD, University of San Diego School of Law. Dr. Karl V. Ebner, PhD, is a consultant at KETox Forensic Toxicology Consulting and author of numerous depositions, reports, and opinions related to drug and alcohol-related cases. Dr. Ebner concurred that Dr. Babin’s report “very troubling indications” of incorrect attribution of death to kratom, once again.

When the DEA attempted a ban of kratom at the end of the legislative season the kratom community leaped into full force in record time. 142,000 signatures were received on a White House petition to reverse the ban and three separate actions by congressional representatives were also issued including an official letter of objection to the Office of Management and Budget by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) signed by 51 members of the House of Representatives, a Dear Colleague objection led by Sen Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and a letter of opposition to the DEA from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Pharmacologist Dr. Christopher McCurdy and several other experts in the field of pharmacology, ethnobotany and drug addiction addressed their concerns about how a proposed ban could “cripple painkiller research” and shut down a valid alternative used by thousands. CNN‘s Dr. Sanjay Gupta has theorized kratom could help end the opioid crisis. Last year, Dr. Babin wrote to DEA’s Office of Diversion Control to note that their initial conception of the plant was based on “contradictory opinions, incomplete knowledge of the most current scientific evidence and without input from the public on their experience with kratom.”

As for the addictive nature of kratom, Dr. Jack Henningfield is a professor at Johns Hopkins University and one of the foremost researchers on addiction performed a comprehensive 8-factor analysis on the addictive potential of kratom. According to Dr. Henningfield, “It’s important to understand that although kratom has some mild effects similar to opioids, its chemical make-up is different, and it appears overall much safer, with apparently relatively small effects on respiration. In fact, kratom’s analgesic effects and impact on energy, combined with its favorable safety profile supports continued access by consumers to appropriately regulated kratom products while research on its uses continues.”

[Featured Image by Paula Bronstein/Staff/Getty Images]

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