Kratom and Opiate Epidemic Facts : Our Letter to Addiction Policy Forum

This is the letter that Kratom United wrote to Addiction Policy Forum, asking their support for kratom as a natural alternative to reach the 40/50% of people with SUD who have no access to treatment. 

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Kratom and Opiate Epidemic Facts 

OD
18% of all Adult American suicides were veterans where veterans make up 8.5% of the population. Suicide and OD are the 2 biggest killers of military veterans. In 2014 veteran suicide was 20 a day. That was the last report on suicides for veterans. We expect veteran suicide to be between 33 or 50 a day due to loss of adequate pain management. 

IG report for 2015 found more than 300,000 veterans likely died while waiting for VA healthcare, many who were waiting to be treated for SUD or PTSD. Kratom can help fill in the gap by better regulating safe access to kratom tea. 

Today 174 people die a day from drug OD, in 2015 there were 52,404 OD. In 2017 there were 72,306 drug OD. KY is rated alongside WV, OH, PA and NH as having the highest OD rate increase in the Nation. In 2017 drug OD in KY jumped 11.5% killing 1,565 people. That is a 40% increase from the past 5 yrs. In OH the ME is expecting OD to be upwards 10,000. That is just 1 of 50 states. What will the OD number be for 2018? 

Kratom
Kratom does not attach or bind to the Nucleus accumbens which is the part of the brain that is consistently tied to addiction and cravings. The nucleus accumbens is a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex that neuroscientists refer to as the region of the brains pleasure center. 

Addictive drugs provide a shortcut to the brains reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. The hippocampus lays down memories of this rapid sense of satisfaction and the amygdala creates a conditioned response to certain stimuli causing the substance use disorder behaviors. 

Kratom does not activate the Beta arrestin protein which is the cause of opiate/opioid deaths that causes the person to stop breathing. The FDA cited 44 deaths claiming kratom had a role to play in their deaths. We have obtained many tox reports and found many deceased had poly drug use, preexisting conditions, suicide and murder. 

Research into kratom has been ongoing for 15 yrs. by Dr. McCurdy from MS State. Dr. Boyer is one of the earliest researchers. Dr. Darshan Singh researched at the University of Science Malaysia’s Center for Drug Research and states his research convinced him kratom has medicinal potential. Claiming “this is the cure for opioids, if a scientist can actually prove it’s a safer alternative all the drug companies will be shutting down” 

Dr. Marc Swogger as associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center responds to the FDA as “drug hysteria and says “they (FDA claims) do not match the current science” 

Oliver Grundmann who teaches medicinal chemistry and toxicology at University of FL’s College of Pharmacy has studied the pharmacology of kratom. Responding to the FDA’s computer model Grundmann says kratom binds to different pathways in the brain. “There are two pathways that are activated on the receptors. One is the pain relieving pathway the other is the beta arrestin pathway. 

Grundmann also doubts the FDA’s claims on kratom related deaths citing 43 of the 44 cases had poly substance or poly drug abuse, which included alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opiates/opioids. Grundmann also mentions the FDA’s computer analysis claiming kratom an opioid is totally based on a computer model which is not consistent with the actual science by researchers in labs on animal subjects, essentially putting a computer model ahead of real live research. 

I have been sober since 1997 and became sick with chronic illness over 11 yrs ago which started from a car accident that caused soft tissue damage and escalated to advanced fibro, DDD, spinal stenosis 5 bulging and herniated disc’s. I also suffer narcolepsy, ADD, PTSD, anxiety disorder and BPD. Having a safer natural alternative as an option for my health and wellbeing helps not just dealing with my illness but my sobriety. I lost faith in Western medicine after being prescribed 13 Rx and a total of 50 over the past 18 yrs. They lead me to suicide and I am a 3 time suicide survivor. After taking kratom 10 months I was able to ease off all 13 Rx along with the help of my primary care physician. 

I fully support better regulation of kratom since I am a consumer knowing product I’m purchasing is lab tested for mold, yeast, e-coli, bacteria, heavy metals, salmonella, ect. The FDA’s claims kratom is an unregulated industry however is far from the truth. The Department of Health has the authority to inspect any facility or building a person is selling food or consumable products from. They also have the authority to fine them and order they cease selling out of their facility till it meets standards set forth by the DOH. The FDA also has authority to call sellers out for making unfounded medical claims, demanding they remove any claims to treat, cure or mitigate from social media, website, and advertisements. 

My Story
We have found a tea leaf that is native to SE Asia for thousands of years with not one death. It hits the same opiate receptors as coffee and spinach. In fact, it’s in the Rubiaceae family - same as Folgers. The upside is that unlike traditional Rx opiates, this tea leaf doesn't cause respiratory depression, and the science from Doctors that are leaders in their field can prove it. The problem is, The DEA and FDA won’t take a meeting with all of the advocates, the doctors behind the science or any of our military that depend on this tea.

I suffered soft tissue neck injury a yr after I got sober. Go figure I get sober and get run off the DC beltway by a drunk driver. I didn't have ins so I paid cash for a chiropractor. A couple yrs later my health took a turn and I was under Dr care for chronic pain. I fought to not have to go to pain mngt because I have heard too many stories of people on Rx opiates and relapsing. I fought so hard to get sober and didn't want to risk going back to the dark pits of hell stuck in a bottle. 

Fast forward about 7 yrs ago I lives in Cliff Wood Beach, NJ working for Bayshore Hospital fitness center and my health got even worse. I finally broke down since I had ins. and saw a pain mngt Dr. I was prescribed Fentynal 100 mmg patches, 120 mg Oxycontin, 40 mg Endocet, Lyrica, Prozac, Valium, Prednisone, 4 Soma DAILY. I also had spine injections twice a month. I had injections one week, follow up the next week, that was my life for 3 yrs. 

When I moved from NJ to KY due to my health I had to find a new PM Dr who'd take over my healthcare. I was told KY Dr's would not prescribe Oxycontin or Soma so I took myself off them. I had plenty of extra pills because I never took the prescribed dose and I had the Rx from my Dr before I left for KY. I did a super slow taper and that is a topic I wanted to talk on. I came off 120 Oxycontin a day using my slow method and I had little to no WD and I didn't crave more nor did I seek more out. In fact I had some for months after I completed my taper. 

I feel this is a huge reason many seek more drugs on the black market after being prescribed due to surgery or trauma. They are not being properly tapered causing them to have WD so they look for more to keep from feeling dope sick. 


I want to change that. It would really help cut down on people switching to more dangerous drugs if they had a much slower taper. 

I attended Addiction Policy forum a few months ago I connected to General McCaffrey and shared my story of recovery and chronic pain. He invited me and it was emotional meeting families of people who died from OD. Personally I have been feeling drained and like there's no end to the opiate epidemic but God shares his medicines in the form of plants and it's our responsibility to protect them. 

Fast forward again, about 4 yrs ago I was on 13 Rx I am a 3 time suicide survivor. Chronic pain IS life threatening. Once I was in ICU 3 days in a coma after taking 150 amitriptyline and carispaodol. They took me to a facility I was then on suicide watch debating Dr. Kevorkian with the resident Psychiatrist for another 10 days. 

 It was after my last suicide attempt I was back home and already planning the next attempt. I just wanted a little break from the 24/7 pain. A lady in a fibro support group heard from another member I tried ending my suffering and said there's a tea leaf she found that helps her deal with the chronic pain. Between you and me, I thought she was crazy, there's no plant that can help pain as well as opiates and if there was it'd probably make you so impaired it wasn't helping the pain it would probably just make you not care about pain. I researched it a month I didn't want to take something that'd affect my sobriety. I am way too vain and proud to give up my yrs of sobriety; if I was going to take anything to the grave, it was going to be my yrs of sobriety. 

I found a store that sold raw herb kratom and purchased some. Took it home and stared at the bag thinking this was my last ditch effort. It was a packet of hope but if it didn't help I was going to go through with my plan to end it. I mixed it in some yogurt, it was the most awful tasking stuff I have ever had! Within 20 min my pain went from a level 7 to a 2. I have mastered the art of biofeedback and thought it was a placebo effect. 6 hrs later, pain returned and I fixed a small bowl and again within 20 min my pain went to a tolerable level. I have been advocating for kratom ever since. 

After joining a few kratom groups to learn more I met a group within the community who took it to detox. This was my area of expertise. I lived in Balt./DC over 20 yrs, heroin has been big there before the 80's and I have a lot of experience helping people detox from it. The number of people showed up at meetings asking help ran about 3 a week. Detoxing cold turkey I had maybe 2% success. Since incorporating kratom into my toolbox of recovery my success rate is 80%. (personal numbers not National numbers)

Reason raw herb kratom needs to remain legal for adults seeking recovery is there are not enough beds to house people there's not enough Dr's to take on every person seeking recovery. Kratom can fill in the gap where people do not have access to treatment. That’s why better regulation of herbs would benefit so many living in rural areas, no insurance, no money, no time off work, no childcare for time spent at a detox. And the stigma, I have talked to many women who refused to seek help for fear CPS would take their children. It is happening now and has happened in the past just from a mother admitting and seeking help for her SUD. We cannot afford to lose access to kratom when we cannot access 40/50% of people wanting sobriety. With safe access to kratom we can reach more people with SUD Western medicine is not accessible. This is not to replace treatment but to fill in the gap. Saving lives is our goal!  

The 6 billion Pres. Trump designated to SUD is going to disappear fast, instead of banning kratom why not address the drugs that actually are killing American's? I could list the substances I have detoxed friends off. They're openly sold on the internet. What about turning attention to a cure? Dr. McCurdy has researched kratom 15 yrs and feels extracted kratom could be used in a medical setting.

  

 SOLUTIONS

1.       Safe access to kratom and other herbs beneficial to help curb WD 

2.       Narcan must be handed to anyone released from a hospital, detox, rehab, jail, who were treated for OUD. 

3.       Opioid art projects in rehabs and jails for therapy. 

4.       Required by law, anyone prescribed an opiate must fill the prescription in a bottle with a combo lock lid. A way to deter minors from experimenting with pills. Stop addiction before it starts. 

5.       Address CPS and the stigma. Mothers refuse to get treatment out of fear of children being taken away. If they’re getting help monitor them but don’t threaten to take children. If they violate terms, then remove the children till they can stay sober a certain amount of time.