PHOENIX - The Drug Enforcement Administration decided Thursday to allow what was once a restricted drug to be used as treatment for heroin addiction.
Kratom has already been used — unregulated — in the past, but this reversal comes two months after the DEA announced it would put it in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act.
That is the most restrictive classification, and kratom would join marijuana, peyote and LSD on that list.
“The time that I quit cold turkey was hellish,” said Shane Watson, manager of family and community programs at the nonprofit Not My Kid. “The withdrawal symptoms from heroin — those were probably the hardest withdrawals I ever went through out of any substance."
Watson said he hit rock bottom when he ended up in jail, facing a few years behind bars. He said his path to addiction started when he was a teenager and abused alcohol.
He started at Not My Kid more than three years ago as a part-time peer educator, sharing his personal story of addiction and recovery with students around Arizona.
Watson said he is happy the DEA backed away from its original decision, because he said kratom helped him turn his life around.
“Summer of 2011 was when I used kratom to quit heroin,” he said. “I applaud the reversal of the decision, because kratom may have the potential to help people.”
The DEA will make a final decision on how to classify kratom in December.