BANGKOK – The Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) is responding positively to the proposed legalization of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), which is currently on the narcotics list.
The ONCB will be meeting with the Food and Drug Administration, the Public Health Ministry and the National Police Office next week to discuss whether kratom should be removed from the list.
Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri recently announced to the press how his team has been thinking about legalizing kratom in the face of what seems like an un-winnable war against yaba (methamphetamine).
Kratom leaves have been chewed for hundreds of years throughout many countries. They offer a light high, giving the taker more energy, similar to the effects of not very potent speed (amphetamines). The plant is still eaten throughout southern Thailand and many other parts of SE Asia.
But kratom is said to be less addictive than coffee and had just a few side effects as coffee. It’s also been used in many countries as a drug used to come off stronger drugs.
Similar to methadone that is used for heroin addicts as a less dangerous and costly alternative, kratom might be used for meth addicts. This would also mean taking addiction away from the black market and into the hands of doctors and pharmaceutical companies.
The Justice Minister believes kratom could be a viable less dangerous alternative.
The Ministry of Public Health and the Office of Narcotics Control Board will discuss the viability of this option.
Dr Anek Yomchinda, chief of the Central Institute of Forensic Science, admitted that preliminary studies showed that kratom did indeed have medicinal properties.
“In New Zealand, it is a component in the production of painkillers and antibiotics,” he said.
A Senate-appointed committee, tasked with studying the pros and cons of kratom use, has found that the plant contains mitragynine, which serves as an analgesic. While its pain-easing effect is about 10 times weaker than morphine, it does not have an adverse effect on the respiratory system nor does it cause nausea, the committee said. There are also no records to show that kratom consumption might be behind crimes.
The study suggests that relevant authorities decided to ban kratom in 1943 because they could not collect tax on it like they did on opium consumption.
The committee also pointed out that if kratom were to be legalised now, it could deliver economic benefits to Thailand, where it is an indigenous plant.
“It can be used in the production of several medicines, and can also cut down on Thailand’s dependence on imported morphine,” the panel said.
A survey shows Satun province had the highest number of kratom trees. Also, truck drivers and labourers widely consume kratom leaves because it keeps them alert. In addition, kratom is cheaper than coffee and energy drinks costing between Bt1 and Bt3 per leaf.