One of the questions we’re often asked is what to do about chronic pain and drug addiction if some disaster occurs that knocks you off the grid, maybe for good. Certainly, pharmaceuticals would cease to be manufactured and whatever pain med you use or opiate drug you may be addicted to will become, very likely, unavailable, leaving you or members of your group high and dry. In these circumstances, you have to look toward natural sources of compounds that could help; things that you might even be able to grow in your survival garden.
Some states approve the possession and sale of marijuana for medical and recreational use, but there is little true opioid effect to it, and recent studies show that it has a slight effect against pain, but mostly has a sedative effect that makes the pain more bearable. the Canadian Medical Association journal tested marijuana on a number of people who had chronic pain, and compared it to people who took a placebo, essentially a sugar pill. Those on the placebo rated their pain as a 6.1 out of 10 and the marijuana group rated their pain as 5.4. A small difference, but a difference nonetheless, so it’s an option.
Another plant that has promise for chronic pain is called Kratom. Kratom is a herb that has been in widespread use in Southeast Asia for centuries; it is chewed for to increase stamina, induce gentle euphoria and relaxation, and relieve pain. Many testimonials exist as to its success helping people kick their addictions to opioid painkillers. On the other side of the coin, Kratom appears to have addictive potential itself, and several hundred cases of poisoning have been recorded, although many of the most severe cases seem to have mixed it with other recreational drugs. Use and/or export of Kratom has been outlawed in some countries where it grows naturally.
The chemical compounds in Kratom, (scientific name Mitragyna speciosa) are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine . These substances act on opioid receptors in the brain, just like heroin and morphine do. Kratom, however, is not an opiate. It’s actually a member of the coffee family. In any case, Kratom has been used by many people who swear by its effect on pain or used it to replace heroin and other street drugs.
Now, in a recent decision, the FDA has (abruptly) chosen to classify the active compounds in Kratom as Schedule I substances. Schedule 1 drugs include heroin and LSD, things determined to have no acceptable medical use and/or high addictive properties. Kratom now joins their ranks. The Drug Enforcement Administration announced that it would, for a period of two years, effectively ban Kratom,. By prohibiting the possession and use of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, the DEA can make it illegal to even have the plant on your property.
This action probably stems from a report by the CDC that Kratom “intoxication” caused 600 calls to poison control centers over the last five years. This despite the claim from proponents of the plant that the number of “poisonings” are small compared to the number of people damaged by many other, even legal, substances. I found little scientific evidence of any lethal effects from using Kratom.
In any case, the FDA has taken up an anti-Kratom stance after several states banned the plant.
In the end, the Department of Health and Human Services is involved in studies on Kratom and its final determination will decide if the plant is banned forever.
What does this mean? Well, that outlawing Kratom may turn its users to things like heroin. Results might be an increase in opiate overdose deaths, something already at epidemic proportions throughout various parts of the country. Secondly, it takes away an natural alternative for the homesteader or off-grid medic to deal with addiction issues or with significant chronic pain in austere settings.
It seems to me that there has been a rush to judgement when it comes to Kratom. Hopefully, the DEA will see the light as to the realistic uses and potential risks of the plant, and allow at least limited access to what might be a very valuable survival medical tool. Don’t hold your breath, though; it’s not likely that, once a substance is controlled by the government, that you’ll be able to get or grow it in the future (marijuana being the rare exception).
You still have until the end of September 2016 to get some plants or supplements. The plants are going out of stock quickly, but there are still supplements available at various online sites. Check out the American Kratom Association for more information. I’m not telling you to break the law, just to do your own research and reach your own conclusions.
Joe Alton, MD
Find out more about natural alternatives for pain and other medical issues in the brand new Third Edition of The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Medical Help is Not on the Way.