DEA Reverses Ban On Treatment For Pain/Opioid Withdrawal, Researchers Studying In Trials

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DEA Reverses Ban On Treatment For Pain/Opioid Withdrawal, Researchers Studying In Trials

For those who have been following news on the kratom controversy and legality arguments, you will no doubt find this information interesting. Kratom is produced from leaves of a tree native to Southeast Asia, and a relative of the coffee plant. Like the coca leaf, its been used for hundreds of years (at least) as both a stimulant and relaxant. Kratom has a similar effect to opiates.

However, it is not thought to be addictive in the same manner as opiods, and a much safer alternative, as well. It’s often used by persons weaning themselves off of drug or alcohol, as a treatment for opioid withdrawal, and as a moderate painkiller.

On August 31, the DEA announced their plan to ban the use of kratom and place it in the Schedule I category. Consequently, the Internet lost its collective mind. Thus, in a somewhat unprecedented move, yesterday they announced that they were reversing their decision.

A withdrawal notice was posted by the DEA today:

“Since publishing that notice , DEA has received numerous comments from members of the public challenging the scheduling action and requesting that the agency consider those comments and accompanying information before taking further action.”

“DEA is therefore taking the following actions: DEA is withdrawing the August 31, 2016 notice of intent; and soliciting comments from the public regarding the scheduling of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine under the Controlled Substances Act.”

Some believe the DEA’s decision was also affected by concern for research barriers, which could hinder those who want to study the drug and potentially use it for the development of new medication.

Researchers Find New Potential Pain Treatment in Kratom

The chemical component in question is mitragynine pseudoindoxyl, which has so far been found as effective as a pain reliever in mice. This compound binds to opioid receptors, which are proteins found in the brain, spine, and other organs. However it activates a different signaling pathway than opioids, such as morphine. These pathways route information between molecules.

This difference is what makes the psychoactive chemical in kratom less addictive, and eliminates the potential for death by overdose (central respiratory depression.) Moreover, the mitragynine molecules from kratom appear to activate mostly the “good” systems, inducing less negative side effects, yet still providing pain relief. In addition, the chemical also blocks another receptor which has shown to reduce morphine tolerance and pain in mice.

The compound is currently being studied in clinical trials run by pharmaceutical company Trevena. In the trials, mice were injected with mitragynine pseudoindoxyl twice a day for a month. They were then checked for pain. Typically, when morphine is used in these experiments, it loses its effect after 5 days.

However, at 30 days on mitragynine pseudoindoxyl, mice still exhibited numbness to pain. Other experiments showed that mice also exhibited few withdrawal symptoms.


Some are hailing the “new” drug as potentially one of the best painkillers ever conceived – and a great boon to those who wish to get off painkillers and are poised to suffer opioid withdrawal. If the DEA keeps the ban lifted, soon there could be a prescribable treatment for pain that doesn’t court addiction, side effects, and overdose.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

Related: Five Truly Enlightening Quotes About Addiction

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