Combatting chronic pain is an ongoing battle. While there are many treatment options, many of them come with not-so-welcome side effects. Opioids come with the risk of addiction and don’t treat the source of the pain, drugs like Lyrica and Cymbalta have a litany of negative side effects, over the counter pain medications oftentimes don’t even touch the pain and treatments like massage or acupuncture aren’t always covered by insurance. Many times pain sufferers are left searching for answers. In this post we will seek to answer the question: Does kratom work for pain management?
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a tropical tree that is native to Thailand and Southeast Asia. Its leaves have been used for centuries to treat pain. They can be eaten raw, but are more often crushed and brewed as a tea or consumed as capsules, tablets or liquids. Advocates claim that kratom can relieve pain, anxiety and depression. Researchers have been studying its effects on chronic pain and opioid withdrawal, and taking note of potential negative side effects.
While currently legal in the United States, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has put kratom on the list of “Drugs and Chemicals of Concern.” This action stems from concerns over abuse potential and little research on therapeutic uses and toxic effects. That being said, kratom does show promise in treating chronic pain.
The DEA had initially set out to label kratom as a Schedule 1 drug, which would place it in the same category as heroin, LSD, marijuana and ecstasy. However, they received pushback and have delayed the ban.
The DEA “has received numerous comments from members of the public challenging the scheduling action and requesting that the agency consider those comments and accompanying information before taking further action,” Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator, wrote in the preliminary document.
The future legality of kratom still remains a gray area; however, currently, it is legal to use in the United States.
How Does Kratom Work?
Researchers have found that kratom targets the same part of the brain that responds to drugs such as morphine, codeine and fentanyl, but does not come with the typical negative side effects of those drugs, such as slowed breathing (respiratory depression), constipation and physical dependence. Most deaths caused by opioid overdose are a result of respiratory depression, so it is particularly noteworthy that kratom does not cause this side effect.
Kratom is currently unregulated as an herbal supplement. Some organizations consider it to be a “legal high.” Many people are calling for more regulation, but not a full on ban.
“So we go from no regulation at all to a total ban. It seems like there could be some middle ground somewhere,” said Walter C. Prozialeck, PhD, chariman of the department of pharmacology at Midwestern University of Illinois.
Prozialeck goes on to say that he does not expect that doctors will recommend kratom to patients any time in the near future; however, many scientists are calling for more research on kratom, particularly in light of the nation’s opioid crisis.
Have you taken kratom for pain? Share your experience in our community to help others find better solutions for pain management.