How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About Kratom

Introduction & Brief History of Kratom-

Kratom (mitragyna speciosa) is a tree indigenous to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and New Guinea. Traditionally dried or fresh kratom leaves have been consumed by workers and citizens to combat fatigue, be more productive, during socio-religious ceremonies to achieve transcendence, and to treat various medical conditions like diarrhea, depression, pain, and even high blood sugar. Today, kratom is growing in popularity in the United States for many of the same reasons it has been consumed in Southeast Asia for centuries. (1)

Kratom is found in the United States as a dried and crushed leaf, a dried powder, or extract made from the dried leaves and powder. The country began the war against opiates due to growing heroin and fentanyl addictions. As the death toll rose, the government stepped in and the war spilled over onto pain patients. Patients with chronic pain couldn’t continue treatment to relieve their pain or their access to pain relieving medicine was greatly reduced and no longer enough to touch the suffering they were enduring. With some desperate to free themselves from addiction and others desperate for any relief from their chronic pain, kratom found a road to popularity in the US. Consumers of kratom often speak to many other benefits they have found while consuming this ancient tree. 

Word of mouth began to grow and the kratom industry boomed. With opiate and opioid panic going strong, and the loss of revenue on prescription pain medicine being experienced by pharmaceutical companies, the general public and pharmaceutical companies began to take note. In 2014 a Florida mom found kratom in their teenager’s possessions after he sadly ended his life. In her grief, she found solace in blaming kratom and fighting to make it illegal in her state. Though that legislation was never successful, it brought national attention to kratom and was the first reason kratom hit the mainstream media. As pharmaceutical companies took on the task of making kratom illegal by lobbying politicians to sponsor bills on the federal and state levels, they quietly began testing and studying kratom. They decided to make synthetic versions of some of the alkaloids unique to kratom in order to begin testing on  new drugs. For instance, Purdue University is in the process of setting up clinical trials right now on a synthetic version of kratom to treat alcoholism. (2) In 2018, the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy received a $3.5 million grant to study kratom and the effects of the 40 plus alkaloids found in the plant in order to “develop treatment strategies to help addicts quit opioids.” (3)  

The pharmaceutical companies have now found a vested interest in keeping kratom out of the hands of the public. At first, consumers believed it was because people were able to quit taking prescription medicines like suboxone  and they were losing money. Then, the reports of synthetic versions of kratom being created and studied began to circulate, and the situation began to make more sense. 

During the many legislative battles to keep kratom legal both federally and in individual states, propaganda-style news stories began to circulate throughout the country. False claims of deaths from kratom, and fear mongering stories of addiction and horror were on every news station and in every newspaper. Activist groups like the American Kratom Association (AKA) were battling kratom on multiple fronts with most of their volunteers being kratom consumers. The FDA petitioned the DEA to schedule kratom as federally illegal, but the pushback from many American citizens and success stories stopped the federal ban from moving forward until more research could be done. With the federal ban stopped, or at least paused, the battles in the individual states went into overdrive. Although a few states have lost access to kratom, the country as a whole has refused to schedule the plant. 

The number of kratom consumers in the United States continues to grow, but with all of the negative news stories out there, it has become increasingly hard for consumers to discuss their personal consumption of kratom with their family and friends. When their loved ones go to search for kratom, all of the negative propaganda pops up first. Search engine optimization set up by the rehab and pharmaceutical industries have made it hard to find the truth when kratom is typed into the search bar. Rehabs have an interest in keeping kratom demonized because it helps scared family members demand their loved ones go into treatment for kratom. 

Many desperate kratom consumers need a resource to find official information on the truth about kratom. They need a list of information they can hand to their loved ones to help them understand. Some of those consumers need that information to help keep their own intrusive thoughts from popping in and making them feel as if they are doing something wrong. Austin Organic Village has put together this resource for consumers to help when and if they need. 

How to Approach a Kratom Discussion With Loved Ones 

Approaching loved ones to discuss kratom can be uncomfortable at best and terrifying at worst. There are a few things that can be done to make the conversation less intimidating. Having a pre-conversation checklist in order to make sure there is nothing overlooked or forgotten can really help boost confidence and make things flow more smoothly. Preparing ahead and having a game plan is the best course of action.

Here is a checklist that Austin Organic Village has put together to help customers when the time comes:

Conversation Checklist

  • Don’t assume that family or friends have already seen the news stories and have preconceived ideas about what kratom is and how it impacts consumers.  
  • Write down a practice letter stating how kratom has helped you and continues to help. 
  • Have resources printed ahead of time with the most relevant information highlighted in order to be able to hand over documentation and proof of any claims made. 
  • Make sure any resources are from a reputable source. Studies, peer reviewed articles, 3rd party analysis, and in-the-know medical information from medical professionals is imperative.
  • Write down any concerns or judgements that loved ones may state, and prepare rebuttals ahead of time. 

-Examples: I saw that stuff on the news and it’s just as bad if not worse than heroin or fentanyl. How do you know that what you’re getting is unadulterated? I heard that the government (state) is trying to make it illegal. It’s already illegal in some states. Is it addictive? 

  • Prepare a discussion about the difference between addiction and dependence, kratom being related to coffee, and how many different substances affect the opioid receptors including cheese. 

-Example: Addiction is when a person will lie, cheat, steal, and destroy their lives. Dependence is what happens when the body and mind get used to a substance like coffee or sugar and the body rebels when the person doesn’t consume it anymore. People don’t generally don’t blow up their lives and the lives of those they love if they don’t get their coffee, but they can have withdrawal symptoms like headaches, low energy, weakness, and feel miserable. 

  • Have somebody who is very familiar with kratom on standby to answer any questions your loved ones may have that you are struggling to answer. Make sure to have their permission to call or video chat them if there is a need. Inform them in advance of the scheduled discussion time, so they won’t be surprised if they receive a phone call. 
  • Know your subject. Read through any documents before the discussion. 
  • Realize that the information about kratom is fluid and ever changing as studies uncover more knowledge, and as the market and regulations adjust. Just a couple years ago, the media was freaking out about the lack of regulation, protocols, and official testing. Be prepared to show that things have changed within the last few years. Explain cGMP certifications and how that follows current FDA guidelines. Be ready to present proof that  your vendor is cGMP certified and is selling safe products. 
  • Use the American Kratom Association as a resource to show that the kratom community has started to police their own by holding vendors accountable if they are not following cGMP practices. The AKA is now providing a list of safe and trusted vendors who are following cGMP guidelines. 
  • Collect testimonials from consumers who share how kratom has changed their lives for the better. There is a whole webmd page dedicated to consumer testimonials.
  • Prepare a serving for yourself to consume in front of them if they should ask. Whether that means making a tea and keeping it in a thermos, adding some in a water bottle mixed with liquid, or having a few capsules on you. If you get your loved ones to the point of curiosity, showing them how mundane an experience consuming kratom is, may help them feel more secure. 
  • Bring a very small serving in a bag to offer to your loved ones just in case they want to try it for themselves. 
  • Be prepared to be extremely honest. Answer any questions they have about your experience with kratom with 100% honesty.
  • Consider approaching one person who you believe will be on your side to have this discussion with before taking it to a group or to a loved one who may be more skeptical. If you have one person on your side, then you can bring them with you for the harder conversations that need to happen. 
  • Be proactive. If at all possible, come to your loved ones first. It is much better to approach this when you can set the tone for the conversation rather than having them find out by accidentally seeing you consume it, or them accidentally running across a labeled bag that you never intended them to see. They may not even mention it to you, but do their own research.It’s much better to come to them rather than them getting their information from propaganda.
  • Be prepared to explain search engine optimization and why negative news stories are the first thing to pop up on Google when/if they search the term kratom. 
  • Make sure to stay calm, even if they seem less than receptive. If necessary you can leave the printouts you made for them to read later when they calm down. Have a plan for how to avoid arguments and screaming matches. Remember that any anger or negativity that you are experiencing is coming from a place of worry. 
  • Have a contingency plan. If the discussion doesn’t go as planned, have a heartfelt letter ready to leave for them along with reliable printed information on kratom. In the letter, detail how kratom has helped you and what life would be like for you without it. Point out any success you’ve had in your health, personal, and professional life since kratom became a part of your personal wellness plan. Make sure to let them know that you understand that their reaction comes from a place of love and concern.

The best and most important resources to bring with you into any discussion about kratom are listed in the section “Kratom Guides for Public and Medical Professionals.” Those two resources, if used with care, will give a huge advantage to consumers approaching this subject with not only loved ones, but medical professionals as well.   

Kratom Guides for Public and Medical Professionals

Understanding Kratom: A Guide for Health Care Providers

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2022.801855/full

Updated 8 Factor Analysis

https://assets-global.website-files.com/61858fcfc6543059f0617522/6196ccc89669ea19cb1d633c_Leading%20Edge%20Kratom%20Science.pdf

 Studies and Analysis Are Priceless

As much as the powers that be have tried to prove that kratom is harmful, each study or analysis reveals more information to the contrary. The following list of resources will give official scientific studies and analysis of those studies. The information strongly backs kratom as being safe and even helpful when it comes to certain ailments. 

Kratom Studies and Analysis

2018 Kratom Study

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871617305586

2020 Kratom study

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-76119-w

Study on Abuse Potential

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871620304002

Study of Abuse Potential in Rats

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30039246/

Study Balancing Public Safety with Therapeutic Potential

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955395919301252

Kratom Survey Kratom Use Patterns and Health Impacts

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28521200/

Peer Reviewed Articles and Various Professional Kratom Presentations

Peer reviewed articles are articles concerning a specific subject that are published in medical journals and reviewed by other professionals in the field. They often come from reviews of studies performed or data collected. The following list of resources are peer reviewed studies, articles, and presentations made by professionals. The presentations are generally aimed at the medical community, but also are created for awareness regarding kratom, and to give politicians a place where they can gather information quickly without having to search for reliable peer reviewed articles and journals. These resources can truly help give loved ones information that comes from professionals who have either dedicated a huge part of their lives and careers to understanding  kratom for the medical community, or spreading factual information about kratom to those who need to make a judgment regarding the safety of kratom in regards to political policy. 

Study Reviews, Articles, and Presentations

Johns Hopkins Study Review

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/newsroom/news-releases/natural-herb-kratom-may-have-therapeutic-effects-and-relatively-low-potential-for-abuse-or-harm-according-to-a-user-survey

Review

https://assets-global.website-files.com/61858fcfc6543059f0617522/6197ea2441be5b239642842e_Eggleston_et_al_Review_by_Henningfield_15July2019_FINAL.pdf

Review of 2020 Study

https://assets-global.website-files.com/61858fcfc6543059f0617522/6197d201296ec2122429dd87_AKA_PRESS_RELEASE_ON_NEW_KRATOM_ABUSE_POTENTIAL_RESEARCH_Sept_21.pdf

Review of Therapeutic Potential of Kratom

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/add.14371

Review on Kratom Rat Study

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871620304002

Kratom Death Risks vs. Opiate Death Risks

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31647958/

Letter

https://assets-global.website-files.com/61858fcfc6543059f0617522/620c13ac9741c266fb08af52_HHS%20Rescission%20Letter%20Dr.%20Giroir%20Aug%2016%202018%20highlighted.pdf

Article

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/study-pokes-holes-in-kratoms-bad-rap

 

Kratom  Treatment for Opiate Abuse

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdOwLt29lwU

 

Conclusion

There is no easy way to have this conversation with loved ones. Kratom was given a bad name before any research could be performed because of the propaganda that was spread through the mainstream media. It becomes even harder to have these discussions if the consumer is somebody who has struggled with addiction in the past. Even though American kratom consumers won against the DEA and FDA, the general public only knows what they’ve been told. Now, consumers and activists alike are in the unfortunate position of fighting through the lies to get the truth to the people. The good news is that cannabis advocates and consumers managed to turn the public opinion, so it can be done. It’s going to take a lot of patience, consistency, and love. 

For those who have struggled with addiction and found a path to freedom with a bit of assistance from consuming kratom as part of a wellness plan, don’t give up. Be consistent and be patient. Family and loved ones will see the change. As the years pass by and they see how much progress has been made, they will come around. There’s a lot of damage done when somebody is lost in addiction and it takes time to build a new relationship based on trust. For what it’s worth, AOV is proud of you and you should be proud of yourself. 

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