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The Daily Tar Heel

Federal regulations impending for Kratom

The Krave Kava Bar at 103 W. Main St. in Carrboro provides an alcohol alternative for anyone 18 and older.

The Krave Kava Bar at 103 W. Main St. in Carrboro provides an alcohol alternative for anyone 18 and older.

The Drug Enforcement Administration released a notice of intent to temporarily place kratom in Schedule I on Aug. 31, the most restrictive category of the Controlled Substances Act. This would make manufacturing, possession and distribution of kratom illegal.

Elizabeth Gardner, owner of the Krave kava bar in Carrboro, which sells kratom tea, said there are misconceptions surrounding the drug. She said the tea is very relaxing but will not induce a high.

“The tea works just like coffee, chocolate or sugar,” Gardner said. “They work our opiate receptors, but they are not opiates.”

She said many people use kratom to deal with opiate addictions they developed when managing chronic pain.

Russ Baer, spokesperson for the DEA, said the initiative to place kratom in Schedule I comes from 15 reported kratom-related deaths and 660 kratom-related calls to poison control centers.

“Once we begin to look at the harm associated with a substance, we are obligated to move forward in an effort to protect the public health,” he said.

Baer said it is unclear when the scheduling will take place.

Regulating kratom has not just been a federal issue. Over the summer, a North Carolina bill was introduced that would make possession and consumption of kratom illegal for people under the age of 18.

The legislation passed floor votes in the Senate and the House, but has not yet been ratified by the governor.

Gardner said kratom was unlikely to be interesting to younger individuals.

“To be honest with you, the tea does not taste delicious,” she said.

Gardner said when she found out about the bill, she visited the N.C. General Assembly and spoke with state senators about kratom. She also offered samples, which some of them tried.

A group of 51 U.S. representatives sent a letter to DEA Administrator Charles Rosenburg, raising concerns about the effect this course of action will have on an ongoing study of kratom as a treatment for opioid withdrawals.

“The DEA’s decision to place kratom as a Schedule I substance will put a halt on federally funded research and innovation surrounding the treatment of individuals suffering from opioid and other addictions — a significant public health threat,” the letter said.

Baer said the intentions of the DEA are not to obstruct ongoing research, but mitigate threats to public health.

“The DEA’s position is that kratom should be held to the same standard as any other medicine that has to go through the rigorous FDA drug approval process to determine what constitutes safe and effective medicines for human consumption,” he said.


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