Devil Kratom: Why Is the DEA Making a Wonder Drug Illegal?

Kratom banYou ever wonder why the gods would make palliatives like opium poppies and alcoholic fermentation quite so double-edged? This is one of those features of the matrix that make me think there really is a god, and he hates us. These mind band-aids make the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune bearable—for a time. They’re the poem juices that hide the zits long enough for the young to fall in love. For a time. Cause these are also demons which, with every call for help we make upon them, exponentially increase their wicked consequences. From hangovers to withdrawal hallucinations to seizures that result in death, it seems the gods delight in punishing Man for attempting to squirm away from all the pain they delight in inflicting upon him.

There would be a great argument for satanism there… if the gods hadn’t also given us kratom.

Kratom is a plant leaf which, ingested orally in its natural state, cures pain more effectively than hydrocodone and is no more addictive than coffee. In small doses it’s a mild stimulant; in larger doses it’s a fairly decent sedative. Overdose is impossible, as ingesting too much of the plant matter would make the would-be OD victim vomit it back up. Addiction is possible, but withdrawals are mild. Kratom taken alone is responsible for zero point zero zero zero zero zero deaths in the United States; on the other hand, since it is extremely effective in aiding withdrawal from opioid painkillers, it has prevented more than a few corpses. Not to mention the people it’s prevented from getting addicted to that shit in the first place. If your back injury or teenage boredom or crippling anxiety, depression, or ass itch can be palliated by a leaf you can buy on the internet, why would you bother with overpriced Vicodin that’s laced with enough Tylenol to punch a fist-sized hole through your liver? (Come to think of it, kratom probably saves your insurance company quite a few claims; it would be interesting to do a study on kratom and insurance rates…)

Well, too bad for everyone, because nothing good can fly under the state’s radar of stupid for very long.
Sooooo you may have head that last week, a good chunk of the manosphere—along with SSI recipients, stroke victims, novelists, sick nurses with knowledge of the dangers of synthetic opioids, fibromyalgia sufferers, and recovering opiate addicts—shat a collective brick when the DEA suddenly decided to unilaterally yank kratom into Schedule I legal status.

It was indeed a pretty shocking move, considering the fact that marijuana—the lamest drug known to mankind, and the leading never-discussed reason for Mexico’s continual failure at everything—is basically becoming legal. While that was happening, in the space of a month, the active compounds in the kratom plant went from available over the counter in most states (the democratic process has blocked state legislator’s attempts to set kratom bans more often than not) to being just as illegal as cocaine, nationwide. (They banned the active compounds instead of the plant itself so no one outside of their alleged thumb-buddies in the prescription pill industry could try to synthesize it—but more on that later.)

Kratom is a Southeast-Asian plant that works on the brain’s opiate receptors, a fact which I on the surface might work the granny-underwear-clad into a knee-jerk tizzy. But its action on those receptors is completely different from that of opiates and opiods (if you’re confused by these terms, “opioids” just means synthetic versions of the active substances in opiates; think Vicodin versus any derivative of poppies, like morphine; although apparently now the gummint is referring to the whole lot as opioids, just to keep things confuddling). Instead of leading to a life-destroying addiction, kratom’s most miraculous medicinal use is to free people from crippling addictions. Opiate withdrawal has been depicted in a lot of art; I’ve never been through it, but it’s reasonable to assume it’s less fun than puppies, to the point where people would rather live on the street and suck dick than go through with it. Kratom is related to coffee, in fact, and like coffee, it also has antioxidant effects. (OK, so it tastes bad; but if they made all bad taste illegal they’d have to burn down the Internet.)

Now, what was the legal and democratic process involved? Well, there wasn’t any process. The DEA used some sort of magical power that got loopholed in on a Tuesday afternoon while the potheads were busy arguing about wah pedals. It seems that if they (the shadowy “they” of the DEA) can come up with enough evidence to convince each other that a chemical compound in a plant (or bathtub) is too unsafe to leave on the street without further study, they can just yank it.

What was their evidence? Well, people who mixed kratom with far more dangerous drugs sometimes end up in the emergency room. Oh, wow. People who mix kratom with a half-gallon of Everclear end up in the hospital, do they? Kratom and an ounce of cocaine can make you woozy, huh? Did they drink water that day, too? How about we make that illegal? Or, more to the point, why don’t we make the alcohol that actually made them sick illegal? Hm, possibly because somebody with lobbyists is already making way too much money off alcohol to give up his cash addiction. How many people die each year from liver cirrhosis, drunk driving crashes, the many, many problems alcohol causes for every organ in the body, and jumping off houses because they think they can fly? Not to mention plain old falling down stairs. I have at least four friends who would be alive today if kratom had been available in the 1990s. People are going to deal with their problems one way or another, and if all they have available is alcohol and weed, they’re going to deal with them badly. The Internet brings us one good thing, and the DEA of all people feel compelled to fuck that up too. Enjoy your psychosis-inducing clickbait and vodka.

This is senseless enough that it only took a couple of days for the conspiracy theories to emerge, and really, that’s hardly unreasonable this time. One kratom vendor’s site claims that the government has already confiscated lots of loads of kratom, which they plan to turn over to Big Pharma so the bastards can analyze it and create their own, more expensive, artificial version. If natural kratom (with all its beneficial antioxidants and its dirt-cheapness) is made illegal, but the active compounds are synthesized, then pills will be the only recourse for the people who currently enjoy its benefits. (Well, that or Vicodin and SoCo; it worked for Brett Favre, I guess, sort of.) Normally I take conspiracies with about a truckload of salt, but I’m having trouble cooking up any other plausible reason they would do this. There are a few vague claims that kratom vendors lace their product with poison; I’ve never heard such a thing, but more to the point, why would someone poison their customers? The stuff was already regulated enough that if anyone had adulterated their product with something poisonous they’d be out of business long ago.

As for the accusation that suppliers are lacing their product with actual opiates translates into plain English as: Dear America, we think you’re all retarded. This is stupider than reefer mania. There is no reason for a supplier to do such a thing on a purely economic basis (even if they were eeeeeeevyl and didn’t mind turning a profit off getting other people hooked on real opiates under the guise of a safe herb). Because kratom, especially on the supplier’s end, is cheap—it’s a plant that grows in tropical areas, and though it had to be shipped overseas, until now the supply wasn’t affected by the sort of “illegality tax” that affects heroin. Processing costs are minimal; whereas they have to do god-knows-what to turn poppies into China White, all kratom processors do is pick the leaves, dry the leaves, and grind them up. You could, if you liked, just shove the leaves in your damn mouth. You could kneel down next to a plant and chew on that fuckin’ shrub like a monkey in the forest.

So you’re telling me that a kratom supplier is going to lace this cheap and effective product with $100 worth of street drugs? The kratom industry runs (or ran, rather) on the strength of its product and especially its customer service. Not to mention price competition! If they were lacing their product with heroin they’d never get anyone hooked on it in the first place, because people would go to a cheaper supplier. Government propagandists are as bad at economic fakery as the undercover drug cops in Madison were bad at fake hipster costumes. “Laced with heroin” is the drug propaganda version of a Hawaiian shirt.

Not that there are any good reasons I can think of to ban kratom. This is not a public health crisis; this is the solution to several. This product has launched dozens of small businesses. There’s no civic-minded plausible reason for the DEA’s actions. So why? They want to sell you their own version? They want to sell you more booze? They want to sell you Vicodin and methadone? I’m almost starting to believe it’s possible that they actually are just pointlessly, incomprehensibly, Oilcan Harry-level evil psychos, and they couldn’t think of any other evil stuff to do this month. But if we find out, we’ll keep you informed. With apologies for the tease to any hopeless heroin addicts who are reading this a month or so after the ban takes hold and you can’t get this cure for love or money: if it’s any consolation, your methadone clinic might offer it to you in a couple of years for fifty bucks a day. Or maybe they’ll offer it at the expense of being followed around by a parole officer for suffering who tickles you with a feather whenever you look too calm or happy. This is precisely that stupid and absurd.

Ann Kathryn Sterzinger

Ann is an editor and a writer who produces actual tragic comedies—that is, they aren't unfunny stories that end happily like in "Tragicomedy." They're funny stories that end horribly. The other stuff she does is only interesting to her. Buy her best novel, NVSQVAM, at Nine-Banded Books, which also published her recent Mirbeau translation. Her second-best novel is available on Amazon (as is everything else Sterzingerian). You can find her blog at

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