Many of their stories are similar. Homeless and hooked on heroin. Suffering from chronic pain and addicted to opioids. Unemployed with a grim outlook for the future.
Until these consumers started using a botanical native to Southeast Asia: kratom.
In response to a Federal Register notice related to an upcoming meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO), one man named Abe Stewart wrote to FDA that he suffered from “chronic pain” and turned to opioids.
“I became addicted, I lost my home and my job, and I was homeless for years dealing with an opioid addiction,” he shared. “Kratom not only [helped] me get over that addiction, but it also helps me deal with the pain so I can be a functioning member of society. Without this plant in my life, the pain would be so horrific that it would not be worth living.”
Stewart is among scores of consumers seeking to preserve access to kratom in the U.S. amid concerns over an international ban of the plant.
WHO pre-review of kratom
In October, the WHO’s 44th Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) will meet in Geneva to review the potential of certain substances to cause abuse, dependence and harm to health, as well as any therapeutic applications. Among other items on the agenda during the Oct. 11-15 meeting, the ECDD will conduct a pre-review of kratom and its constituents, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, to determine whether current information justifies a critical review.
“The pre-review process determines basically whether sufficient evidence exists to bring the substance before the [Expert] Committee on Drug Dependence for a formal review,” explained Robert Hoban, a Denver-based member with the law firm Clark Hill PLLC.
Kratom advocates fear a worst-case scenario: That the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) will “schedule” (as a drug) kratom internationally, requiring dozens of countries—including the U.S.—who are parties to the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances to ban the substance.
An international ban on kratom isn’t expected to occur anytime soon. The entire process could take two to five years, Hoban said, with the U.S. eventually modifying the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Either DEA or FDA, or both agencies, “would create a temporary scheduling, which would then go through a scheduling process, but it would not require congressional action,” the lawyer added during an interview.
The secretariat of WHO’s ECDD explained the implications if CND ultimately votes to add kratom to the list of substances under international control.
“Scheduling a …….