We’ve seen this debate with marijuana. Advocates passionately crying out that “weed is a plant, not a drug”, rallying together to keep their natural medication away from the ravenous jaws of the DEA, who are always eager to classify something new as a Schedule 1 substance and thereby ban it from the homes and bodies of Americans. It’s no wonder people are asking: is kratom a drug?
What Is a Drug?
Like any herbal substance on the rise to fame, there are people with opinions on both sides of this debate. The best way to answer this question definitively, then, is to first define what a “drug” is, and determine if kratom fits the bill.
According to Merriam-Webster, a drug is “a substance used as a medication or in the preparation of medication” or “something, and often an illegal substance, that causes addiction, habituation, or a marked change in consciousness”.
Too Many Definitions, Too Little Time
You can see where the confusion comes from. If you take the first definition, then kratom advocates should be more than happy to proclaim their pet product one of the finest new drugs around; something that offers medicinal benefit to the people who use it.
It’s that second definition that causes all the hackles to rise. No one wants to talk about whether their healing, all-natural substance causes addiction or habituation, and given the decades-long attack on products that do – despite the wide range of proven-addictive legal substances like caffeine, sleep meds and so on – it’s not surprising that proponents are adamant kratom not be called a drug, but a plant (or a medicine, a folk remedy, a natural alternative, etc).
Kratom Does Have Drug-Like Qualities
But the truth is, addiction completely aside, kratom does cause changes in consciousness. It doesn’t make you high, which is what most people probably think of, but everyone from passionate patients to vendors like us is talking about its mood-lifting benefits for the purposes of fighting anxiety, stress, and depression.
So, in fact – kratom falls into the “drug” category on both counts. Nowhere in that definition, I’m afraid, does it say that drugs and plants are mutually exclusive.
In my opinion, though, rather than trying to lure naysayers onto their side of the Drug debate, there’s a different question that people should be asking:
Are All Drugs Bad?
In light of the opioid crisis on one hand, and the attack on kratom and marijuana on the other, it’s no wonder we get a bit tense when someone tries to refer to our products – which we know are healing and beneficial, and even potentially life-changing – as “drugs”, especially when they say it with a derisive sneer.
On the one hand…
The opioid crisis has shown us that pharmaceutical drugs aren’t just godsends that keep us healthy – they can also addict us and kill us. We don’t want kratom to be categorized with these dangerous substances!
On the other hand…
The DEA and other bodies have done their best to declare all natural “drugs” life-threatening and public crisis-causing, and many people on their side are ready to demonize every person who uses them (cough, Sessions, cough).
But if you forget all that and just look at the dictionary definition of the word, we can’t say all drugs are bad across the board any more than we can say all plants are deadly, or all politicians are scumbags.
What is the well-meaning liberal public to do?
One Kratom Advocate’s Opinion
For my part, I don’t blame advocates for shouting phrases like “It’s not a Drug, it’s a Plant!”, but it does make me cringe when I see their hand-painted signs. It seems like denying the classification of natural products like kratom just because we don’t want to be bundled up with the baddies of the past could harm continuing support more than help it. Science-geared people who have yet to make up their minds will see these proclamations and roll their eyes – clearly, these advocates don’t even read the dictionary, how can I trust their other claims about this substance?
There’s no easy solution, unfortunately, as long as people who remember the past hear the word “drug” outside of the pharmacy and automatically envision crazed meth addicts and spaced out stoners. Until the word settles back into the innocuous, unbiased place it belongs, this argument won’t end.
So, what do you think? Is kratom a drug?
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