DEA Agents in Orlando, Florida

In an interesting, but positive turn of events, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has listened to the outraged voices of the citizens and has temporarily lifted the ban of kratom in the United States. Kratom, a plant native to Southeast Asia and used as a painkiller or safe alternative to prescription or illegal opiates, was previously assumed to be assigned as a Schedule I drug as of Sept. 30 due to an emergency scheduling order.  

However, the DEA has surprisingly announced that it has not reached a final decision and is allowing a public discussion period. This is extremely important for recovering addicts who rely on kratom to keep from using heroin, which has increasingly been laced with the even deadlier drug fentanyl. This decision also shows promise for future communication between the public and the DEA, which is especially important in the midst of sporadic marijuana legalization, but also possibly for other incorrectly scheduled drugs such as psychedelics.

The DEA had intended to ban kratom as an, “Emergency scheduling order,” which is a misleading way of saying it did not do its research and made this decision out of fear. Supposedly, a small number of deaths were linked to kratom usage; however, in these rare cases other drugs were also used. 

However, this, along with its increasingly widespread usage and association with heroin, seemed like enough reason for the DEA to move to emergency classify it as Schedule I for a minimum of two years. 

The mandatory wait time to make this move after deciding was 30 days, which was set to be up on Sept. 30. Since announcing this, the DEA has received numerous protests and unending criticism. Points raised included the safety of kratom, the danger of prescription painkillers and the heroin epidemic. The DEA seemed somewhat surprised by the backlash, and has decided to wait and allow for public discussion. The public comment period will go until Dec. 1.

If the DEA recognizes that the people appreciate being involved in the decision-making process, appreciate being trusted to have valid judgment on what they do with their own bodies and appreciate the value of the possibility of research, then this could have positive implications for the discussions surrounding other incorrectly scheduled drugs as well. 

This included marijuana, which is sporadically legalized in some states for recreational use, and in others for medicinal use, but also for psychedelics such as LSD. Many of these drugs are placed in Schedule I, the level supposed to be reserved for drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. 

However, marijuana, for example, clearly has medicinal value. Many psychedelics were used in experimental psychotherapy treatments with positive results. Additionally, addiction to these drugs is nearly if not outright impossible and overwhelmingly the users of these drugs report positive, not negative, effects on their lives.

The majority of the negative impacts on people’s lives come purely from the fact that they are illegal. At this scheduling level, it is extremely difficult to do research to even prove that the drug were incorrectly scheduled. Hopefully, this discussion period for kratom sets a positive example for the DEA to look to in its future decisions. We can only hope.

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