Kratom is a naturally occurring plant in the coffee family. According to the Food and Drug Administration, though, it’s an opioid. Why the strange ruling? To protect pharmaceutical profits.
Yes, kratom can have similar effects to an opioid, and it can even be used to help patients recover from opioid addiction, but it isn’t an opioid.
First, opiates come from poppy plants. Opioids are the man-made, synthetic version of those same compounds. Kratom, however, comes from the coffee family—meaning it’s neither an opiate (because it isn’t from poppies) or opioid (because it isn’t synthetic, or based on compounds found in poppies).
According to Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, however, kratom is a “street drug,” and should be viewed as an opioid.
Nevermind that those opioids he’s comparing it to are synthetic drugs created by the pharmaceutical companies, controlled by prescriptions (in theory), and highly addictive, and that kratom is far safer and naturally occurring.
Gottlieb even wrote there is no known science to support using kratom to treat opioid withdrawal:
We have been especially concerned about the use of kratom to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms, as there is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder and significant safety issues exist.
This simply isn’t accurate. But such a lie makes far more sense when you consider Gottlieb’s background; before taking over as head of the FDA, he served on GlaxoSmithKline’s product investment board. And GlaxoSmithKline just so happens to own a patent on a synthetic kratom alkaloid that was designed for the express purpose of pain treatment and reducing opioid dependency. Meaning Gottlieb in his previous professional capacity was connected with a synthetic, kratom-based drug designed to do exactly the thing he says kratom can’t do.
The real rub here is that kratom is far more easily available as a plant, and that when patients use it, they don’t need GlaxoSmithKline (and other big pharmaceuticals) expensive products.
Making kratom illegal just makes it easier for those pharmaceutical companies to tout their products—products that may be kratom-based, but under their control.
This isn’t about public safety, despite what Gottlieb may say. After all, far far more patients and addicts die from opioid addiction each year than have ever been documented in connection with kratom. No, this isn’t about safety.
Instead, it’s about preserving profits. Gottlieb doesn’t care about patients’ safety. What he cares about is putting money in Big Pharma’s pockets. Making kratom illegal helps him do that.