The University of Florida College of Pharmacy announced that it will be receiving a grant from the National Institutes on Drug Abuse for $3.5 million for kratom research.
According to a press release from the college, the team led by Dr. Lance McMahon and noted kratom expert Dr. Chris McCurdy, along with Dr. Bonnie Avery “will seek to identify the pharmacology of its 40 alkaloids, test the effects of these individual alkaloids on the brain’s receptors and continue to develop treatment strategies to help addicts quit opioids” in a process that “identifies kratom’s alkaloids through chromatographic methods, to determine where they go in the body and how they are broken down into metabolites.”
This could be an encouraging sign for 5 million American kratom users that some federal government bodies want to research kratom instead of ban it outright. A recent open letter written by scientists regarding the FDA’s 8-Factor Analysis criticized the FDA for ignoring recent NIDA studies regarding kratom, and urged the FDA to involve NIDA before making kratom scheduling recommendations in the future.
Research such as this is a step toward preventing kratom from being considered a substance with “no medicinal value”, which qualifies it for Schedule 1. However, the NIDA grant is neither a guarantee the FDA will follow the science, nor that the DEA will not ban kratom. After decades of advocacy, marijuana’s days as a Schedule 1 substance are numbered. However, during the decades since its prohibition, we’ve seen a Catch-22 where marijuana’s Schedule 1 status made it difficult to research for medicinal value, even as lack of medicinal value is the criteria for categorizing a substance as Schedule 1. (And we’ve also seen the NIDA monopolize marijuana grown legally for research, a monopoly which ended in 2016. But that’s another can of worms.)
Two questions for kratom users to consider in light of this news, plus one joke question:
- What would happen to this research should kratom be banned? Will it be allowed to continue? Will the results of the research de-legitimize a ban? Will the FDA and DEA care if this research demonstrates kratom’s medicinal value?
- If Dr. McCurdy is able to isolate mitragynine to be patented and sold as a drug, will ground leaf kratom and extracts still be freely available to purchase and use for the millions of Americans who are already being helped by it?
- Will the Florida Gators become the Florida Krators?
Kratom news like this is generally encouraging. We need more research into this plant that has already helped so many. Since drug companies are not scrambling to undercut their lucrative opiate market, the research funding has to come from the government.
Unfortunately this type of news about kratom is not sensationalist enough to be featured in many news outlets. We will continue to learn about any deaths within a mile radius of any quantity of kratom on the local news. But KratomScience.com will continue to follow the science.