Some of the federal agencies we know today are different than their predecessors. For example, some of you might not have heard about the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA). Congress created it back in 1973. But the President was responsible for appointing its administrator. ADAMHA acted as an umbrella organization, providing policy and supervision over three separate federal institutes: the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). But its existence was short-lived. So it no longer exists today. Congress abolished the agency less than a couple of decades later when it passed the ADAMHA Reorganization Act in 1992.
After that legislation was made law, Congress created the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to take its place. But it performed differently than the agency it replaced. SAMHSA consolidated the treatment functions amongst the three institutes ADAMHA governed into one organization. The research functions of those institutes were embedded into the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The task set before SAMHSA was an order to improve the quality of treatment available in rehabilitative services in our country for those suffering from addiction or mental illnesses. Supposedly, the agency is responsible for advancing the behavioral health of the nation. And the organization touts that scientific research and evidence-based practices guide its efforts to provide leadership and resources to all 50 states. Unfortunately, we find the agency foregoes access to scientifically-back evidence.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) created a PowerPoint presentation for SAMHSA’s 15th Annual Prevention Day (2019). And in the display of information provided, titled “Urgent and Emerging Issues in Prevention: Marijuana, Kratom, E-cigarettes,” it has kratom listed as a drug of concern for substance abuse problems for the agency.
But the agency supplies no viable data to corroborate its assertion. Instead, the PowerPoint presentation pulls from misinformation from its sister agencies. Included in its demonstration, SAMHSA mentions several kratom overdoses that it states occurred from taking kratom products. But that claim has no factual basis and twists the truth. When we look at all the research about overdoses in the United States, absolutely no scientifically-sound data exists that proves that kratom was ever responsible for even one single death.
The article where the agency got its distorted facts to make this ridiculous argument was published by the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). And that report presented stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while bending the truth. The article informed the audience that kratom was responsible for over 90 deaths from overdose. However, it failed to address that highly toxic drugs were found in the bloodstream of almost every one of those fatalities: we’re talking about drugs like heroin and fentanyl.
Like the article whence the federal agency pulled its data, it refused to educate the audience of the insightful facts of dangerous drugs in the toxicology reports of the deceased.
The federal organization tasked with handling substance abuse issues appears not to understand any of the subject matter the agency governs. The remarks SAMHSA makes about kratom are somewhat akin to the nonsensical materials that Drug Abuse Resist Education (DARE) program would hand out when I was a child. That program also claimed to be based on scientific literature and research. Ironically, several scientific reports indicated the prevention program didn’t work. And that’s not surprising. The lectures given during those times informed students to say no when drug dealers offered them drugs for free. Evidently, the government thought dealers would give away a bunch of narcotics to get kids hooked on the addictive substances. Yet, the idea was ludicrous. Imagine a drug dealer that gave away his entire product line for free. That person wouldn’t be in business for very long. They’d be broke in no time.
You could hear that type of absurdity echo in specific statements on SAMHSA’s presentation. For one, the agency commented that the stimulant effect of kratom was comparable to cocaine or amphetamines. Now, those are potent stimulants. They’ll keep you up for days at a time. Kratom, on the other hand, is a weaker stimulant than coffee.
Another asinine remark stated that the pain-reducing effect of kratom was similar to the strength of prescription narcotics derived from opiates. They give the clinically ill those types of drugs to ward off severe pain. Kratom’s pain-relieving properties don’t come close to dulling that amount of trauma.
Fear is a driving force on our planet. Governments know that better than anyone. Creating panic in the minds of the populace allows a government to bend the collective consciousness of its citizens to its will, regardless if it’s in their best interest or not.
In the PowerPoint presentation, SAMHSA tries to make the case that kratom use is associated with addictive disorders. But there’s no evidence supplied by the agency to support that remark. Instead, it claims cravings and compulsive use by kratom consumers prove the plant has addictive properties. The agency also argues that opioid withdrawals are present upon cessation of kratom products. However, scientific research suggests a different narrative.
A team of researchers worked together to study whether or not kratom has abuse potential. And they used the intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) procedure to test if kratom affected the brain-stimulation reward (BSR) system the same way that known addictive drugs act on the neural pathways. But according to the results of the study, it reacted differently than addictive drugs, contrary to what SAMHSA wants you to believe. The conclusion of the research states that kratom showed no signs that the plant has addictive properties.
Of course, that scientific study relied on empirical data for its findings, unlike the exaggerated expressions from the federal government. But, I guess, in this day and age, Americans can choose to make their choices based on fact-based truths or opinions. Our country seems like it wants to head in that direction right now.
In the agency’s closing arguments for its presentation, it mentions that the United States might consider placing kratom under its Scheduled List of Narcotics sometime in the future. And it followed that with a memo that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public health advisory against kratom on November 14th, 2017, stating the agency recognized the plant as an emerging public health threat. However, it failed to mention that the FDA issued that warning based on the ill-advised data we discussed herein from the JAMA article.
Apparently, the agency refused to provide the whole picture to the citizens of this nation because it feels they’re not smart enough to make up their minds based on accurate information. Also, it must think Americans are too dumb to seek out that research and read it for themselves. But SAMHSA even takes it one step further by insulting the intelligence of its audience at the end. The agency felt it had to point out that the terms “legal” and “available” are not synonymous with the word “safe.” But that goes without question.
There are plenty of “legal” prescriptions one can get from the doctor that have dangerous and deadly side effects. There are plenty of “available” items that the FDA approves that aren’t actually safe. But as for kratom, it’s a “safe” alternative to some of those “legal” and “available” options on the market that federal agencies choose to back. And kratom consumers have the intelligence to understand that fact.