The move has outraged the hundreds of thousands of kratom users in the United States, as well as those who say the act is undemocratic. At low doses, kratom acts as a mild stimulant, and in larger amounts it reduces pain. Many attest to its potent pain-killing abilities, as well as its power to help wean people off addictive opiates like heroin. But there are also a significant number of anecdotes indicating that it may be addictive in some people.
The DEA has said kratom is an “imminent hazard to the public safety” and thus needs to undergo emergency drug scheduling, without public comment. But the agency has provided very little evidence of that. The notice states that there were 660 calls received from 2010 to 2015 regarding kratom, an almost comically small amount. (For comparison, there were 6,843 reports of kids eating single-load laundry pods from January to July 2016.) The notice also says kratom has been linked with 30 deaths throughout the world in recorded history, although all of these involved other drugs as well. That too is a small number, compared with the 52 deaths caused by prescription painkillers every day. Research suggests kratom is not very harmful (although much more research is warranted—a 2015 literature review concluded “kratom is considered minimally toxic”) and prevents pain without interfering with breathing, unlike opiates.
The DEA’s move greatly upset decorated veteran Sergeant David Dasilma, who immigrated to the United States from Canada and joined the Army one day after becoming a citizen. He served tours of duty in Iraq as a medic and received 19 military decorations during his six years in the Army, and he was the 2009 noncommissioned officer of the year. (He’s also an actor and writer, who’s penned two novels.) Dasilma says he takes kratom to ease pain caused by several combat-related injuries, and the plant allows him to live a manageable life and not take the panoply of zombifying prescription drugs doctors have given him.
When he found out about the DEA’s move in late August, he posted a video on Facebook that has amassed hundreds of thousands of views. Newsweek caught up with Dasilma to hear his thoughts on the DEA’s decision to ban kratom.
Why’d you decide to make the video?
I had just found out about the news and had worked super late. I was pissed off and decided to rant. I’m a vet, and I have some battle injuries, and kratom really helps me. It upsets me that it’s labeled as a drug and that the DEA has just decided to ban it.
What's the process of taking kratom like?
I steep a pot of hot tea, with kratom, and then I cool it. I have two mugs of kratom tea, and that’s it. Just by doing that, I don’t have to take seven drugs.
For me, that’s huge. I cannot remember the last time I had a migraine. My feet are fine. They hurt, but I can run and work out. My shoulder is good enough to lift. It basically treated all of my problems that I was taking seven other medications for.
Mitragyna speciosa, also known as kratom, has been used as a mild stimulant and to treat pain. Some also say it has addictive properties. ThorPorre via Wikimedia Commons
How’d you first get introduced to kratom?
I was in a lot of pain, and my best friend of 30 years, who’s in the kratom business, gave me some to try. I took a small dose, felt alert, but it didn’t help the pain. [This is one of the interesting effects of kratom—stimulating at low doses, causing pain relief at larger doses.] So then I took more. Suddenly, my feet didn’t hurt. Man, I felt good. That was at night. The next morning, I went for a run. That’s really hard to do in my situation.
Content Originally Published By: Douglas Main @ Newsweek