Opponents of kratom in the United States have consistently used vague medical concerns to try and criminalize the plant. In response, the American Medical Association is updating how it views kratom as the latest indication that meaningful regulation is on the way.
As part of the AMA’s 2023 meeting, the association officially changed its position on kratom via Resolution 515 to oppose criminalizing kratom for personal use, among other tweaks that could affect discussions around the plant in the future. While the AMA’s decisions and resolutions do not directly influence governmental decision-makers, kratom advocates celebrate the update as a major win.
Officially, the resolution had four bullet points. Two that were focused on future potential applications of kratom, and the two that are likely to help shape a move toward regulated kratom markets, rather than the panic of prohibition that has been pushed by federal authorities.
The first update on kratom from the AMA is that the “policy should be dictated by science that is driven by research” and conducted and evaluated in the proper channels. There is language that vaguely alludes to circumstances that would require kratom to be scheduled–most of it depending on new science or evidence. The good news for advocates is that the Food and Drug Administration has tried repeatedly to schedule kratom through various authorities.
They’ve yet to find any traction in their claims.
That means that per the AMA’s updated guidelines if cause for scheduling doesn’t exist, the medical association’s official stance is that kratom customers should have unfettered access to the plant.
This leads to the second bullet point relevant to the ‘kratom question’: “Individuals using kratom for personal use should not face criminal charges.” Obviously, the AMA has no legal authority, but what will carry significance is that a trusted medical organization has looked at the science and determined they support the stance of kratom advocates.
A Step in the Right Direction
In discussions at both the local municipal level and at state hearings on proposed kratom bills, opponents have been quick to point out a listing from the Mayo Clinic’s website that repeats the same information the FDA has presented multiple times. That prominence is more about Mayo’s ranking on Google, as the article contains no links to medical information or available research on kratom.
Now the AMA is stepping in and trying to be a guiding voice on kratom policy in the face of confusion and misinformation from other parties.
According to former high-ranking federal officials, there are elements to kratom’s profile that have been well-known for years. These developments are just the first step toward ‘telling the truth’ about what is indicated by data and research… especially when you consider exactly how different kratom is from the substances it is often lumped in with.
“Kratom is not listed as an addictive substance in the DSM that’s used by healthcare professionals,” said Jim Carroll, a former White House drug czar. “Alcohol is in there, cigarettes are in there, obviously opioids, marijuana… kratom is not listed.”
Carroll was speaking as part of an American Kratom Association webinar on kratom policy in America and outright told participants that while he worked in the White House, it was well known that there was “the truth” about kratom and there was a skewed set of science that was being presented by authorities with an anti-kratom bias. Carroll directly told a story about his involvement in the FDA’s attempt to schedule kratom and how the federal agency acted based on its own interests, rather than indications from science.
Science Sets the Record Straight
That’s the story that the AKA has been telling for years across the country. Mac Haddow is a senior fellow with the AKA, and has testified at dozens of hearings at various levels of government where he’s made it clear that the available science supported the conclusions reached by the American Medical Association.
For Haddow and others close to the matter, the answer is simple: The biggest risks associated with kratom are bad actors and adulterated products. That’s what the science has indicated, and now Haddow is hoping that help from the medical community can help center the discussion around science and research.
“There is one thing we agree on, there ought to be supervision, there ought to be regulation,” Haddow said. “But who is responsible for holding an industry responsible?… It’s the U.S. Food and Drug Administration who abdicated that responsibility… They want this industry to implode on itself.”
The lack of action by the FDA was clear to Carroll as well, who was outspoken about his belief that kratom was treated with a double standard by certain agencies. When it came to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Carroll said kratom’s safety profile was accurately represented and acted on. That wasn’t the case with the FDA.
“The issue for me is that it needs to be regulated. We want it to be available, but it has to be properly labeled, we have to know exactly what’s in there and that there’s no contaminant,” Carroll said. “For the purposes of NIDA, an agency I oversaw, (the issue) is making sure that we follow the advice of the experts.”
Now Carroll hopes that pressure from the medical community outside of federal agencies can help bridge the gap between available science and how kratom is treated by regulatory bodies.
“I think that most people are saying the same thing,” he said. “Kratom needs to be responsibly regulated, it needs to be responsibly sold, but it shouldn’t be left to an agency that is stuck in the mud.”