Popular Drug

Would you use an alternative substance with mild opium-like effects to treat chronic pain?

Would you seek it out, even if people are calling for it to be listed as a controlled substance?

Some people, including fibromyalgia patients, are doing just that. They’ve been using kratom to fight chronic pain.

Right now the drug is legal in most places, but in Florida that may soon change.

Kratom, or the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree, can be chewed to provide a drug-like effect. Kratom has been used for thousands of years in certain countries in Southeast Asia, but prompted by reports of the drug’s alleged addictive and hallucinogenic properties, it may soon be harder to come by.


Republican Sen. Greg Evers has submitted a bill in the Florida Senate that would add kratom to the Sunshine State’s list of controlled substances. The bill, SB 764, was introduced on Feb. 6. It was narrowly approved by the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice on March 10.

The bill has two more committee stops before reaching the Senate floor. A House version of the bill hasn’t been heard by a committee yet.

Kratom is banned in Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, and Burma as well as in Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Vermont in the United States.

However, people across the globe use kratom to ease muscle pain after exertion or in the self-treatment of an opiate addiction, according to a study published in 2013 in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

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One of kratom’s active agents is mitragynine, which may produce the opium-like effects. It also acts as a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory.

Studies, however, show that kratom has an abuse potential and could lead to cognitive damage. One study, published in 2014 by the Society for the Study of Addiction, found that when isolated from kratom, mitragynine led to anxiety and cognitive impairments in rats and mice.

Until the effects of kratom are completely known, researchers are calling for caution. One review, published in 2012 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, advised physicians to familiarize themselves with the availability, user habits, and available research on the drug.

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All is not lost for those that may need kratom for medicinal purpose. The proposed bill in Florida provides “an exception from scheduling for any drug product approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which contains mitragynine.”

Patients, like those who have fibromyalgia, might not be able obtain the kratom leaves if the bill passes, but they would be able to be prescribed an FDA-approved drug containing mitragynine.

That exception could be imperative for some users in the United States.

On Thursday, a different fibromyalgia drug didn’t pass a post-marketing study. Pfizer’s pain drug Lyrica failed during testing of the treatment in adolescents with fibromyalgia. Lyrica, however, is approved for various uses in 139 other countries and regions and is also approved in the United States for the treatment of other diseases.

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