As a reporter covering the government’s efforts to crack down on the herbal supplement kratom, I’ve interviewed dozens of advocates who swear by its therapeutic potential.
Some tout the substance, made from the leaves of Mitragyna speciosa, a Southeast Asian tree related to coffee, as nothing short of a miracle drug. Others are more reserved in their praise. And although kratom users vary in their enthusiasm about the herb’s efficacy, almost everyone seems to agree that its psychoactive properties are simply not potent enough for it to be categorized alongside heroin and LSD.
That has continued to be one of the kratom community’s principal arguments since news emerged that the Drug Enforcement Administration plans to place the herb on Schedule I as early as the end of the month. Drugs in this category are considered to have no known medical benefit and a high potential for abuse. Emerging scientific research and the success stories of thousands of kratom users call that contention into question. A White House petition asking President Barack Obama to intervene has drawn more than 122,000 signatures, crossing the threshold that requires a response from the administration.
Hundreds of kratom advocates rallied in front of the White House on Tuesday to protest the federal government’s moves to ban and criminalize their treatment.