The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced its intent to classify the active materials in the kratom plant as Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in order to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety. Kratom has been on the DEA’s list of drugs and chemicals of concern for many years. 

Kratom, a tropical tree indigenous to Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, and other areas of Southeast Asia, contains mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Kratom can produce opioid-like effects when abused; it is typically promoted as a legal alternative to controlled substances. Abuse of kratom can lead to agitation, irritability, tachycardia, nausea, drowsiness, and hypertension. Abusers have increased risks of hepatotoxicity, psychosis, seizure, weight loss, insomnia, tachycardia, vomiting, poor concentration, hallucinations, and death. 

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The DEA’s findings have shown that more kratom has been seized in the first half of 2016 than any previous year, representing millions of dosages intended for the recreational market. Kratom has been seized in different forms such as powder, plant, capsules, tablets, liquids, gum/resin, and drug patch. With uncertain and inconsistent purity levels and quantities, these substances can pose significant health risks to users. 

Over 55,000kg of kratom material were encountered by law enforcement between February 2014 to July 2016.  An additional 57,000+kg of kratom material offered for import into the United States are currently pending FDA admissibility. The FDA has also warned the public to not use any products labeled as containing kratom due to toxicity and potential health effects. To date, the DEA is aware of 15 kratom-related deaths between 2014-–2016. 

Kratom has a high abuse potential with no currently accepted medical use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. These factors make up a Schedule I controlled substance according to the Act passed in 1970. 

The official announcement has been posted in the U.S. Federal Register. 

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