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Latest news about kratom

Inaugural Kratom Leadership Summit showcases collaboration between scientists, advocates, community

ATLANTA, GA—More than 50 leading kratom vendors and advocacy groups gathered to discuss the future of kratom in America at the first Kratom Leadership Summit on Monday, April 30. Hosted by the American Kratom Association, attendees discussed strategies to keep the plant legal despite efforts to ban it by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The Kratom Leadership Summit brought together dozens of leading actors in the kratom community for the first time to find common ground to overcome the challenges before us,” said American Kratom Association Board Chairman Dave Herman. “It was amazing to see so many kratom vendors and advocates dedicated to improving the lives of people nationwide through collaborative efforts.”

The Summit included presentations by leading addiction researcher and keynote speaker Dr. Jack Henningfield, molecular biologist Dr. Jane Babin, and Georgia state representative Vernon Jones. Rep. Jones moderated a number of the discussions, and provided his perspective as a lawmaker and kratom consumer.

“As a kratom consumer, I see the benefits of this plant each and every day,” said Jones. “As a public servant, I stand with the millions of Americans who, like me, understand the importance of hosting a dialogue among diverse opinions to pave a path forward for kratom industry standards and policy prescriptions.”

Henningfield told attendees that the FDA and those fighting to ban kratom are misguided in their understanding of the plant’s effects and its purported opioid-like qualities. “Kratom is no more addictive than a cup of coffee — and the available data show as much,” said Henningfield.

Dr. Henningfield discussed at length the four scientific surveys conducted on kratom and kratom users. Citing these surveys as well as his own peer-reviewed research, he said that the FDA and other kratom opponents mislead the public and lawmakers when they compare kratom to traditional opioids. “To compare this slight possibility of mild addiction, on par with caffeine, to the devastating and deadly addictions found in real opioids is to drive a lot of the fear and misunderstanding prevalent in the media.”

In addition to discussing the science of kratom and addressing the current outbreak of salmonella in some kratom products, many of the Summit’s multi-hour sessions were dedicated to creating open dialogue among key players in the kratom industry, vendors and advocacy organizations alike.

Mac Haddow, Director of Government Relations for AKA, stated that the best way to ensure a safe and legal product is together as an industry. “Communication is everything. Talking to one another through weekly meetings or conference calls is one way we can collectively identify threats like salmonella and address the key steps we as an industry must take to self-regulate and expose bad actors in the kratom space who refuse to maintain acceptable standards.”

Kratom advocacy organizations in attendance such as the Botanical Education Alliance and the Kratom Trade Association likewise said the Summit created a valuable starting point for collaboration.

“The Kratom Leadership Summit was a successful first step to uniting around common principles, with the kratom community coming together to put aside differences and discuss a way forward for the industry,” concluded Herman.

“This event and the enthusiasm it fostered proves this movement is a force to be reckoned with. The Summit’s sessions and the discussions shared by the attendees have reinvigorated and inspired those involved in the production and distribution of this life-changing plant.”

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Learn More About CBD

What exactly is cannabidiol (CBD) and more importantly, what does it do? Those questions and more are at the heart of this comprehensive guide to one of the most fascinating and important compounds of the cannabis plant. Cannabis plants are chemical powerhouses that produce more than 400 different compounds. Not all of those compounds are unique to marijuana, of course, and appear in many other species of plants. That’s why marijuana can smell like pine trees or taste like fresh lemons. But of those 400 compounds, more than 60 of them are totally specific to the plant genus Cannabis. Scientists call these special compounds “cannabinoids.” However, not all cannabinoids are created equal. One of them, cannabidiol, or CBD, holds the key to the wide variety of medicinal and therapeutic effects marijuana offers.

The more we learn about CBD, the more it seems poised to revolutionize medicine as we know it. Find out why cannabidiol is so important and why you should care about it, especially if you consume cannabis.

CBD 101: The Fundamentals of Cannabidiol
Perhaps the only thing more complex than the biochemistry of cannabis is its pharmacology. The ways weed interacts with the human body are exceedingly intricate. And the truth is we don’t know as much as we should about those interactions—at least not yet.

Nevertheless, we do know some of the basics. So here’s your fundamental fact sheet about Cannabidiol.

Cannabidiol is Not Psychoactive
One of the most crucially important qualities of CBD is its lack of psycho-activity. In layperson’s terms, this means that cannabidiol won’t get you high. Unlike THC, the cannabinoid with the legendary power of producing euphoric sensations, Cannabidiol is inert.

So when taken on its own, users experience none of the sensations of being stoned. And this is the single most important property of the cannabinoid from the medical—and legal—perspective.

Cannabidiol is Legal Almost Everywhere
Because CBD doesn’t get you high, products that contain only this cannabinoid can skirt the legal ban on marijuana.

Technically speaking, its THC—the cannabinoid that gets you high—which is illicit. When you take a drug test, the aim is to detect THC in your body, not “cannabis.” If you possessed weed without any THC in it, technically you wouldn’t be in violation of the law. Because “weed” without THC has a different name: hemp. And the rules governing hemp are quite different from the restrictions placed on cannabis.

In fact, every state that has yet to legalize marijuana for medical use has some kind of law allowing people to obtain and use CBD-only (or low-THC) products for medical or therapeutic purposes. And in most cases, that means obtaining Cannabidiol from hemp, rather than cannabis flowers.

In places with legal medical marijuana programs, CBD products are widely available and easy to find.

Cannabidiol Can Come From Hemp or Marijuana Plants

There are two main sources of CBD: hemp plants and marijuana. Where a given product comes from depends on the legal status of marijuana in a particular state.

If medical marijuana is illegal in a given state, THC levels determine whether a CBD product is illicit or not. In most places, the limit is extremely low. We’re talking under 1 percent THC, with some states opting for a cap as low as 0.3 percent. In this case, the only source that would work is hemp, and CBD products will, therefore, be hemp-derived.

In other places, limits can be higher. Delaware, for example, allows CBD oil to contain up to 5 percent THC. But that’s still not enough to get anyone very high.

Sourcing and legality questions aside, the general consensus has it that CBD derived from marijuana is both more potent and more effective.

Many attribute this phenomenon to the “entourage effect,” or the theory that one cannabinoid can do its job better when it works together with its companion cannabinoids. Extracting Cannabidiol from cannabis flowers helps keep these other cannabinoids intact, which is why people prefer it over hemp-derived products.

In other words, the source matters. And the buds of the cannabis plant have a richer and wider complement of cannabinoids compared to hemp leaves. So while we’re on the topic, here’s a quick rundown of the best CBD-only and CBD-dominant strains of cannabis out there.

Breeders Are Crafting Specialized CBD-Dominant Weed Strains

The demand for medical-grade cannabidiol has spurred breeders and growers to pursue new strain genetics that promote cannabidiol production. These strains don’t attempt to eliminate THC. Instead, they increase the ratio of CBD to THC, allowing the effects of cannabidiol to shine through.

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Learn More About Kratom

Late last year, the Food and Drug Administration issued a public-health advisory against the herbal supplement kratom, citing 36 deaths linked to products containing the substance, and a tenfold increase in calls involving kratom to poison control centers from 2010 to 2015. This warning arrived more than a year after the DEA announced its intent to ban kratom, placing the botanical drug in the same category as heroin and ecstasy (the announcement was quickly reversed following public backlash).

But let’s back up for a minute: What the hell is kratom anyway, and why are federal authorities seemingly so hellbent on keeping it off the market (illegal or otherwise)?

The Lowdown on Kratom

Kratom is derived from the leaves of the mitragyna speciosa plant, a tropical evergreen in the coffee family native to Southeast Asia. While it’s primarily grown in the central and southern regions of Thailand, many American enthusiasts choose to grow their own plants from seeds, both to save on costs and to have complete control over their supply. (Kratom seeds, plants and extracts can be purchased online or in head shops.)

Kratom is usually brewed like a tea, or crushed into a powder and mixed with water. Farmers and indigenous people have used the plant for hundreds of years as both a boost to increase work efficiency (low to moderate doses of kratom serve as a mild stimulant) and also at the end of the day as a way to wind down (higher doses serve as a sedative).

This user’s guide attempts to explain the effects of consuming kratom:

The stimulant level: At the stimulant level, the mind is more alert, physical energy (and sometimes sexual energy) is increased, one feels more motivated to get things done, ability to do hard, monotonous physical work may be improved, there is an elevation of mood (it has an antidepressant effect), one is more talkative, friendly and sociable.

The sedative-euphoric-analgesic level: At this dosage you will be less sensitive to physical or emotional pain, feel and look calm, have a general feeling of comfortable pleasure, and may enter a pleasant dreamy reverie. It will be very pleasant to lie down on your back in a semi-darkened room, with eyes closed, and just listen to your favorite music.

The Arguments For and Against Kratom

In the U.S., both scientists and consumers consider the herb to be a safe andeffective treatment for chronic pain and PTSD as well as a replacement drug in cases of opioid addiction. “Kratom people will say it’s way better than taking buprenorphine or methadone, because kratom is weaker and the sense of getting high or euphoria is much less,” journalist Chris Glazek, who authored Esquire’s “The Secretive Family Making Billions Off the Opiate Crisis,” recently explained to my MEL colleague Tierney Finster while she was reporting her end-of-year “State of Drugs” piece.

 

The FDA, however, has a very different opinion, according to its public health advisory:

It’s very troubling to the FDA that patients believe they can use kratom to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms. The FDA is devoted to expanding the development and use of medical therapy to assist in the treatment of opioid use disorder. However, an important part of our commitment to this effort means making sure patients have access to treatments that are proven to be safe and effective. There is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder.

That final—and most important—claim is debatable, though: A recent reportpublished in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association suggests that kratom is “much less harmful than prescription opioids.” That’s because kratom contains the alkaloid mitragynine, which activates opioid receptors (inducing euphoria and reducing pain) without triggering respiratory depression, a lethal side effect of traditional opioids.

“In 2016, the American Kratom Association (AKA), proactively commissioned an independent 8-Factor analysis by the leading scientist on addiction and safety of dietary supplements, Dr. Jack Henningfield,” explains Pete Candland, AKA’s executive director. “Dr. Henningfield’s analysis concluded that kratom is not dangerously addictive and that it is safe for consumer use in the same manner as other dietary supplements and ingredients such as caffeine.”

Another recent report concludes that drugmakers could develop safer pain medications from kratom, and at least one pharmaceutical company is currently attempting to do exactly that.

Despite these developments, the FDA’s public-health advisory suggests that federal authorities are once again preparing to crack down on it. Similarly, numerous states have recently passed legislation to ban kratom in response to reports of fatal incidents involving the drug. However, a recent review of such deaths found that kratom was detected in combination with other drugs in most instances: “Although death has been attributed to kratom use, there is no solid evidence that kratom was the sole contributor to an individual’s death,” the researchers performing the review concluded.

Still, the DEA points to such deaths as reason enough for banning the herb, citing a grand total of 30 documented deaths associated with it. This argument is flawed for a few reasons, though: Not only is it not fair to assume—as the DEA does—that every person who died after consuming kratom died because of consuming kratom (as stated already, additional drugs were likely the real cause of death), the number of deaths also pales in comparison to those caused by prescription opioids. In 2014 alone, 1.9 million Americans ages 12 or older had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and more than 18,000 people died after overdosing on prescription opioids.

Why a Full-On Ban Doesn’t Make Sense

“In our opinion, forcing kratom into the shadows through a ban would have tremendous negative impacts for folks who consume kratom as part of their regimen to manage their health and well-being,” Candland emphasizes. “We would welcome the opportunity to work with federal, state and local officials on developing common sense guidelines.”

Such guidelines are necessary to help stabilize the currently chaotic kratom marketplace in America, according to Dr. Christopher McCurdy, a professor of medicinal chemistry who’s been studying kratom for 13 years. “Of course, we believe [kratom] to have great promise, especially based on the traditional use in Malaysia and Thailand for centuries,” he says. “But the products that are currently available in the Western world, are almost like the ‘Wild West’ of marketing—some are good, some are not.”

Knowing that, why is the FDA pushing for an all-out ban? “The problem with a natural product, like a plant, is that you can’t patent it,” Glazek explained to Tierney. “There’s no way for the pharmaceutical industry to make money off of kratom, so they want to create a synthetic version of it—and some people think they’re trying to make the natural version illegal, so that they can sell their synthetic version.”

If he’s right, it’s less an issue of if kratom works, and much more about who will truly reap its benefits.