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Ohio moves to regulate kratom – used for pain, opioid addiction – but some say it's dangerous

·2 min read
Kratom is a herbal supplement that users say can help treat pain or opioid addiction.
Kratom is a herbal supplement that users say can help treat pain or opioid addiction.

The Ohio House passed a bill allowing for regulation of kratom on Wednesday, a controversial move given that some medical experts have called it addictive and harmful.

Kratom is an herbal extract from the leaves of a Southeast Asian tree and is typically taken as a powder or tea. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the extract can decrease pain, lead to pleasure or sedation and can help people cope with opioid withdrawal.

Currently, its use is not outlawed in Ohio, and it is sold in specialty stores, head shops, gas stations and online. But whether it's safe has been a matter of debate.

More: Ohio delays kratom ban; bill proposed to regulate the herbal supplement

In 2018, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy attempted to make kratom a Schedule I controlled substance. The board said its substances have high potential for abuse, and some health professionals say negative side effects outweigh benefits.

The pharmacy board's move to ban kratom received pushback from many users and did not happen.

House Bill 236, which is carried by Reps. Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, and Mark Fraizer, R-Newark, prohibits banning kratom.

More importantly, it would create a licensing system for processing kratom and a program to oversee sales of it, all under the state Department of Agriculture. The bill clarifies safety requirements, including forbidding kratom being mixed in with dangerous substances.

"It appears that, in limited cases, bad actors in the supply chain have taken advantage of the growing popularity of kratom, particularly among those suffering from opioid addiction, by mixing other compounds into the plant to produce an unnatural high," Lipps said previously. "Natural kratom is not causing these adverse effects – adulterated kratom is."

But the safety guardrails haven't appealed to everybody.

"Under this bill, the regulation, sale, and distribution of kratom fails to highlight the negative risks to a person’s mental and physical health," said Fran Gerbig, with the Prevention Action Alliance, a Columbus-based nonprofit targeting substance misuse. "At this time, there are no specific medical treatments or behavioral therapies for kratom addiction."

If it becomes law, Ohio would join five other states in protecting kratom from being banned. Kratom has been banned in at least six states.

The legislation now moves to the Ohio Senate for consideration. If it passes the Senate, it would need Gov. Mike DeWine's signature to become law.

Titus Wu is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Ohio looks to regulate kratom for pain and addiction treatment