The audio version of this interview can be found on Episode 24 of the Kratom Science Podcast.
Kami Ann Davis was in a rafting accident in her 20s that led to a life of chronic pain.. She went on to become a nurse. The physical strain of nursing combined with the opioid medications for her chronic pain led her to search for an alternative. Kami discovered kratom has become an advocate for the plant that she says provides focus, energy, as well as pain relief. This is Kami Ann Davis, and this is her kratom story.
KratomScience: You said in your article in Alternative Pain Treatment Directory that you had an accident. What happened there?
Kami Ann Davis: So I suffered three injuries over the course of eight years. The first one was a really bad white water rafting accident. That caused PTSD. At the time we thought we had signed up for an intermediate course, Class IV rapids. However, due to the late rains that spring, we ran into Class V rapids, which are non-runnable.
It was crazy. Our raft tipped. I was the only girl on the raft. All guys, Marines, firefighters. We got smashed up into the rocks, consumed a bunch of contaminated water. We were camping, of course, on the trip. We all fell out of the raft, and we all had to be rescued. But thankfully I caught up to another raft and they threw a rope and took me in.
The next day I was bruised from head to toe, and I didn’t feel very good because I drank all that water. But I didn’t get checked out or anything. At that time, I wasn’t a nurse and didn’t have any experience. I didn’t ice it or anything that you’re supposed to do. Once you turn chronic, it’s harder to treat.
Three months later, I wake up, and I’m in a lot of pain. So I go to get X-Rays. And it shows my C-1 [vertebrae] is displaced 3.8 millimeters. And I got a video fluoroscopy. It’s cool, it’s like an X-ray that shows you while you’re moving, and that shows the ligamentous laxity. So my ligaments weren’t working right. They weren’t supporting my neck properly. And I wasn’t able to get surgery because of where it was at. The C-1 is right at the base of your skull.
All that time I kept working. My dream was to become a nurse. I was so young. This was back in the 90s. I think I have a pretty high pain tolerance too, but I just ate Excedrin like candy, and ibuprofen every single day until it ate the lining of my stomach. I could not take it any longer after a few years.
It’s interesting though. Once I started kratom, my stomach issues cleared up. That was a good thing.
So I just kept working and I was going to school, taking Excedrin. I never asked for pain pills or anything like that. I graduated and became a nurse.
I worked at Napa State Hospital. (psychiatric hospital in Napa, CA –KS). That’s a pretty dangerous environment. The nurses and techs don’t have any kind of protection on the unit. They don’t tell us that. There are hospital police, but they’re not on the unit. They don’t carry guns or any kind of protection – not even a stun gun. The nurses and techs on the unit were just on the floor and all we have is an alarm pen. We have to deal with stressful situations. I worked on the forensics side. I worked with the criminally insane. So we had to do take-downs, and that was wear-and-tear. I was re-injuring myself. So that just escalated.
From like, wrestling patients to the ground?
Yeah, that sort of thing.
I know, it’s a pretty wild job. I mean, it was really interesting. But had I known there was no security, I probably wouldn’t have worked there. The money was good, so that’s always appealing.
So that contributed. Fibromyalgia, I have that. I totally believe that is a result of multiple traumas to the body. I’ve had fibro for 20 years. I still don’t understand it completely, but I can manage it pretty well as long as I take good care of myself and manage my stress. Kratom does wonders for it. It’s widespread pain that makes you hurt all over. It feels like you’re wearing a wet-suit that’s ten times too small.
That’s a good description for those of us trying to get an idea of what it feels like.
Thanks. It also causes brain fog and really bad fatigue. So kratom helps that also.
So at some point you were taking morphine and opioids for pain?
Right. They also prescribed me Xanax, and Neurontin, and Tramadol. The Neurontin was horrible. It made me really dizzy, and just, you know, not clear-headed. The morphine, it was hard to take that because I already had fatigue, and it made that worse. So I had to really fight that off.
I didn’t really like those medications at all. I’m not going to lie, they did relieve my pain. But the side-effects weren’t very good. And of course, they can cause respiratory depression too. That’s another good thing about kratom is that it’s atypical, it only partially attaches to your Mu- receptors. So therefore it doesn’t cause the respiratory depression, and it’s low risk for addiction and all that.
So did it all start with the rafting accident?
It did. It escalated. When I was nursing, I also worked at Sonoma Developmental Center. It’s pretty much like a state hospital, long-term residential facility. A lot of lifting, dressing, bathing bed-ridden clients. So that was tough too. I already had back problems, so it probably wasn’t the best job for me.
Finally, I guess the pain just got to me one day. I was giving patients their meds. I forgot to give my patient his seizure meds, and the next day he had a grand mal seizure. I’m there to help people, not hurt them, and I felt so bad. That’s when I knew I had to find a different field to work in. So I left. As a nurse you have to be precise, and you have to have excellent critical thinking skills, and obviously mine were being affected.
So I left and then I looked for jobs where I could work at home. I started my own childcare business. I started medical transcribing – I got my certificate. I made money. Not as much as when I worked in the hospital, but at least it was something.
When did you discover kratom?
Three years ago. I was just so tired of the fatigue and the negative side effects from the medications that I was on. Times were getting just crazy. They kept saying the government was coming down on the doctors. I though, I need to try and look for an alternative. So I Googled “alternative opioids” and kratom pops up. So I start to research it. I was really careful. I looked at different vendors, and did as much research as I could about it. And then I ordered some, tried it, and it was amazing. It just took my pain away, and no fatigue. I think the most negative side effect I experienced is if I don’t drink enough water, I get a headache. But it has a lot of pros for me, personally. It’s just changed my life for the better.
Did you discover kratom before you quit nursing, or after?
That’s the sad thing. It saddens me because, if only I would have known about kratom, if I could have tried it before I quit, then I probably would still be nursing, totally. My life probably wouldn’t have changed as much. At least I finally found out about kratom.
So many Americans are in the dark. They say 10-15 million Americans consume kratom but then our population is, what, 327 million. So that’s really not that much.
“I believe it’s saving people’s lives, not destroying them. But if you Google kratom, the negativity pops up first.”
When I ask people if they’ve ever heard of it, they ask, does it get you high?
There’s a stigma around it, right? Everyone thinks its negative.
I’m trying to get people to realize that it’s not a legal high. A lot of people use it to get sober.
Right! Exactly. I’ve read hundreds of testimonies of people quitting heroin, and it’s helping them with alcoholism, and that’s amazing. That’s significant. I believe it’s saving people’s lives, not destroying them. But if you Google kratom, the negativity pops up first.
The testimonies, do you think that helps, when all of us speak up about it, do you think that’s helping?
Absolutely. With the podcast and Kratom Stories, and I’m organizing thousands of testimonies on KratomScience.com into one document so it can be emailed to whomever needs to read it.
The American Kratom Association are doing phenomenal work, I think.
They’re trying to introduce the Kratom Consumer Protection Act on the federal level, and they’ve already introduced it across some states.
We’re lucky to have them.
I was arrested a year ago. Last year I was driving home from an art show. So I get pulled over and asked if I had been drinking. I said no. The cop gives me a breath test. I pass it, of course. And he gives me a field sobriety test. Honestly, I don’t have the best balance. And it was late. I failed it. I didn’t do very well. It was cold, and freezing in my defense.
Then he asked me, “Did you take any medications today?”
And I said, “Nope.”
I guess I was just ignorant. I didn’t think this would be a bad thing to mention kratom. I mentioned, “All I took was one half teaspoon of kratom this morning.”
“Around 7 a.m.” And that was hours and hours ago. This was 10 o’clock at night. And so after that it just went downhill. He arrested me. He handcuffed me. Drug us to the station. And then for like 4 hours he just kept repeating tests on me. I passed the tests. Maybe I wasn’t as cold, or whatever. They believed that it was a psychoactive substance that impairs and intoxicates people. They had a really, really bad idea about it. Finally they let me go, but that was horrible.
That’s like being arrested for drinking coffee. Half a teaspoon?
Right? And it was hours and hours ago. But he just had this bad opinion of it already.
Did you beat the charges?
He couldn’t charge me on anything.
How much kratom do you usually take per day?
I take 1-2 teaspoons at a time, three times a day. I also take breaks, one break every month, and I also switch strains, because I don’t want to build a tolerance. That’s the truth – we can build a tolerance to it. Same with caffeine and other things. I believe you can make anything a problem. So you need to respect the plant and take it responsibly and at minimal doses. Don’t abuse it. Don’t take huge amounts.
Do you find that kratom is better than opioids for chronic pain?
I think it works just as well, if not better. It’s great because it helps my fatigue, as opposed to the opioids that didn’t get rid of the brain fog as well. I was still drowsy at times on them. So that’s a huge pro for me with kratom.
Does it helps specifically with PTSD, or does it help with the anxiety and depression that comes from that?
Definitely. It helps so much with that. I also take ashwagandha. That helps too. I take it with the kratom. I take one half teaspoon with every dose. It’s really good for anxiety.
Did you have withdrawals when you took opiates?
If I stopped. Oh yeah, they were bad. But I don’t feel like that with kratom. I never crave kratom. Some days I can take three doses, as opposed to another day, if I’m not doing as much, I can take one or two. And there’s no difference for me personally. I don’t feel withdrawals or anything like that.
Kratom is known to have some addiction and withdrawal. But it’s nowhere near the amount for heroin or morphine or anything like that.
I think for most people, like you, kratom is manageable. And you said you take breaks?
Right. I do. I believe there’s a difference between addiction and dependence. Do you?
Yeah. I hear that a lot from chronic pain patients.
I think there’s a difference between someone who is psychologically addicted to a substance or a feeling as opposed to someone who is taking something to relieve their pain, therefore maybe they’re physiologically dependent.
How do you prepare kratom?
I make tea sometimes but usually I mix it with orange juice and a little bit of lemon juice.
What strains do you like? You said you like Super Green Malaysian in your article.
I do. That’s my favorite. I don’t really believe in all those fancy names. But I like the green and white.
Have you had any other side effects with kratom at all?
I really don’t. I had stomach issues and that cleared it up. It helps me so much. It eliminates the pain.
Dehydration. That’s kind of a big thing. I do have to drink a good amount of water, but that’s really it.
My advice to people just learning about kratom is to do their research. Especially with vendors. Get small portions of it, and see what works best for them. Start with a low dose, then you can work your way up to see what’s the right dose for you. Also it’s really important to not mix kratom with ]certain] medications. You should consult a healthcare professional or, you gotta research, especially if you’re on heart medications or blood thinners. That’s really important. You don’t want to mix that.
A lot of people trying to get off opiates try to taper down or quit altogether and introduce the kratom after that. Same with alcohol. I’ve talked to some people who were heavy drinkers who have said eventually they just didn’t crave a drink anymore. Which is nuts.
I know, isn’t that crazy? I drank some. I was never a heavy drinker. But I noticed I have no desire to have a beer or anything. I think it’s amazing that people are quitting heroin, because methadone and Suboxone have negative side effects. They carry risk for respiratory depression. So I think kratom is way better than methadone. I think Americans deserve to at least have the option. That’s great if methadone is the way for someone to go- I’m not bashing that at all. But at least they should have the option and they should know about kratom. Hopefully that will happen one day so they could choose which route they want to go.
Have you ever had a doctor that you could openly talk with about kratom?
No, not yet. But I was thinking about definitely mentioning it, because I think that would be important, to just get the word out and talk about it.
For a doctor that would be an opportunity to learn about it. Some people say their doctors just look it up and find that the FDA doesn’t approve of it, so they’ll just tell their patients that.
Yeah, they don’t know anything about it yet.
“I was literally treated like a criminal. I was arrested and held for four hours. My poor son was there too. All because I mentioned I consumed a half teaspoon of kratom.”
But then there are some others who will listen to their patients when they say it helps them.
It really depends on the doctor. There are some who are open. But I think the majority are not. That’s a shame. I was never denied my pain meds or anything like that. I know a lot of pain patients who are just being cut off, and I think that’s terrible. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me but I don’t like the side effects. I always took them responsibly but I’m very thankful that I did find kratom.
When I found kratom it helped me so much. I didn’t feel impaired and it didn’t change my personality at all. It just gave me focus, and clarity, and energy, and it took my pain away, and my anxiety.
Kratom keeps your mind clear. Does that help you do your job, or be more productive in general?
Definitely. When I was taking morphine, I had a hard time concentrating. But with kratom, it doesn’t do that. If only I would have found kratom when I was nursing, I’d probably still have a career now. It’s great for mental clarity and focus.
When you stop taking it, does your chronic pain come back, and do you just have to put up with it for a couple days when you want to take a break from kratom?
Honestly, it does. But I do have to say that I feel like my condition is better all-around.
Do you do any kratom activism out there in California? Or do you even need to? I know it’s legal there.
I do, definitely. I follow the American Kratom Association closely. I’m District Captain for District 5. So I’m trying to help them there. I have an advocacy group, Southeast Beautiful. It’s growing. We try and put our minds together. We search the web and try and find threats where they’re trying to ban kratom across the country. When we find those threats, we communicate that with each other and the AKA. We try to all work together. I’m trying to create unity and harmony in the community so we can save our plant and #keepkratomlegal. I’m always saying decriminalize kratom. That’s what we’re dealing with. We’re treated like criminals. I was literally treated like a criminal. I was arrested and held for four hours. My poor son was there too. All because I mentioned I consumed a half teaspoon of kratom.
It doesn’t always pay to be honest with the cops.
I hope kratom remains a dietary supplement. I would love to see kratom at the dispensaries or in the vitamin shops. I don’t want to see it behind a pharmacy counter, or Schedule II or anything like that. It’d be like square one, because they don’t want to give patients their pain meds now. They’re not going to want to prescribe them kratom. People should have access to it freely.
I honestly don’t think it should be regulated more than coffee and tea. But we have to do something to make it legal, and I think the consumer protection act is good.
Children don’t have any business taking it, so there should be an age restriction. Maybe it’ll keep the FDA off of our backs, hopefully. I’m not against traditional opioids. Kratom doesn’t help everyone. We’re all different. So I think people should have access to adequate pain relief.
I just started growing, too. I got plants. I’m excited because they’re growing beautifully.
How’s the climate where you are for that? I talked to a guy in Ohio who grows kratom and brings the plants inside in the winter.
That’s what I’m gonna do. I got them like a month ago. They’re out on my porch. In California it’s pretty warm right now. So yeah, they’re thriving.
I believe that Americans deserve to know there’s another option for pain treatment such as kratom. Keep kratom legal. Keep fighting for our plant. Everyone needs to stand up and speak out about it. Don’t be ashamed that you take it!