Kratom, an herbal supplement made from the leaves of the mitragyna speciosa tree, has only been popular in the West for a few decades. In Gloucester City and elsewhere in New Jersey, most people hadn’t even heard of it until the past few years. Even Western scientists are only in the beginning phases of understanding kratom’s pharmacological mechanisms and potential therapeutic benefits.
At this phase, research into Red Dragon Kratom and other popular strains are more important than ever. Debates surrounding potential bans on this herbal supplement rage on. New Jersey could soon be added to the list of states with kratom bans. Without scientific evidence to back up anecdotal reports of kratom’s benefits and risks, there’s little evidence to support either side.
Read on to find out how increased research could impact the debate.
The Current State of Kratom Research
Since kratom’s introduction to the West from its native Southeast Asia, scientists have only begun to study kratom effects. There has also been some research into the plant’s pharmacology and its risk profile. Surprisingly, researchers have only begun to scratch the surface of its potential therapeutic benefits.
Getting a Handle on the Average American Kratom User
In Southeast Asia, most kratom users are day laborers. Current research indicates that the average American kratom user has a very different demographic profile.
The average kratom user is middle-aged, educated, and falls into the middle-income brackets. He or she has private health insurance and makes the active choice to use herbal supplements like kratom. This is relevant because there are some known kratom drug interactions.
All pharmaceutical drugs and natural supplements have some known negative interactions. Further kratom research could help to pinpoint potential problems before they arise. Since the average kratom user is older in the United States and has access to pharmaceutical interventions, that’s very relevant.
Kratom’s Pharmacological Profile
While scientists have yet to uncover the herb’s full potential, they do have a good idea of how it works. Kratom’s primary active ingredients are its alkaloids. Researchers have identified more than 20 active alkaloids in kratom, but some are better understood than others.
Mitragynine acts on the brain’s mu, omega, and kappa-opioid receptors. Its primary action is on the mu-receptors, where it creates analgesic effects. It also activates serotonergic and noradrenergic pathways in the spinal cord.
This alkaloid is 46 times more potent than mitragynine but found in lower concentrations. It induces antinociceptive responses that vary based on the dose.
Speciociliatine hasn’t undergone as much research as mitragynine or 7-hydroxymitragynine. Unlike these better-understood alkaloids, it doesn’t act on the opioid receptors. It inhibits acetylcholine release from presynaptic nerves via other neural pathways.
Speciogynine inhibits muscarine receptors in users’ ileal smooth muscle tissue. This alkaloid may be responsible for kratom’s ability to soothe pain and inflammation related to delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
What Does All That Mean?
Not every New Gloucester resident is a trained scientist. Thankfully, one doesn’t need to be to understand kratom’s effects.
In layman’s terms, kratom can:
- Reduce pain
- Induce relaxation
- Help with managing anxiety
- Improve mood
- Increase energy
- Address insomnia
Gathering Evidence to Fight Kratom Bans
Kratom remains federally legal in the United States despite some opponents’ best efforts. Since 2016, the Trump administration has been pushing for legislation that reclassifies kratom as a Schedule 1 substance. Advocates from across the country pushed back and postponed the legal hearings required to take this step.
Some states have taken it upon themselves to ban kratom on a local level. Currently, New Jersey is not among them. However, New Gloucester kratom enthusiasts should not let their guard down.
The Push to Ban Kratom
The push to ban kratom on a local level has been spearheaded for the past half-decade by Assemblyman Ron Dancer. In 2015, Dancer filed a bill claiming that kratom’s opioid-like properties justified criminalizing it. Dancer also cited supposed scientific literature concerning its toxicity but failed to clarify what articles he was referencing.
Dancer’s bill died in committee, but that hasn’t stopped him. In February 2018, he reintroduced the same bill. This bill also failed to pass. Dancer, not one to take a hint, refiled the same bill again on January 14, 2020. It has yet to come under review.
How Adequate Research Can Help
Opponents of kratom often make dubious claims about the herb’s potential dangers and addictive properties. Much of the supposed scientific research used to back up these claims is flawed.
Studies claiming that kratom can produce lethal overdoses fail to account for other, more dangerous substances in overdose victims’ blood. Those that study kratom side effects highlight serious but exceedingly rare issues like hallucinations and seizures. There is a clear need for further research carried out by non-biased scientists.
If kratom advocates can get access to high-quality academic research, they can use it to support their claims. There is a ton of anecdotal evidence regarding kratom’s safety and efficacy. What’s needed now is further scientific proof that it works.
Increasing User Safety
Many of the supposed ill effects of kratom use are caused by contaminants. Since this popular herbal supplement isn’t regulated by the FDA, manufacturers are left largely to their own devices. That’s bad news for kratom consumers and advocates who must constantly push back against false claims as a result.
One impact of recent research into kratom is an increase in lab testing. Many vendors selling Yellow Thai Kratom and other popular strains now lab test all their products. They provide the results of those independent tests to consumers to help them make informed choices. The ability to rely on empirical evidence instead of baseless claims makes using kratom safer than ever.
Another impact of increased research into kratom’s efficacy and safety is that it has increased consumer awareness. Only a few years ago, few New Jersey residents had even heard the word kratom. Now, the controversy surrounding this herbal supplement combined with increased scientific research has placed it in the national spotlight.
Baseless claims made by pseudo-scientific lobbyists have done little to dissuade New Jersey residents from giving it a try. More people than ever are using kratom to support their overall health and wellness. That’s good news for everyone but the pharmaceutical companies. As further research gets published, the trend toward increased kratom use will probably continue barring a state or federal ban.
Is Kratom Safe?
Kratom’s safety has become the subject of a national debate. Though some opponents claim it can be addictive or produce adverse reactions, actual evidence to support those claims is scant. Most kratom users report few side effects, but more research will need to be conducted to prove its safety definitively.
The Future of Kratom in New Jersey
What’s needed isn’t a kratom ban. It’s further research into this herbal supplement. New Jersey kratom users and advocates need to make sure their voices are heard by contacting their local representatives. Insist that kratom not be banned unless further research is performed to back up Dancer and other opponents’ claims. Given the proliferation of recent scientific evidence of potential therapeutic benefits, it’s difficult to see how it could.