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Thailand Moves One Step Closer to Legalizing Kratom Medicinal Purposes

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Thailand’s cabinet has approved the Justice Ministry’s bill amending the Kratom Act, a step closer towards the legalization of Kratom for medicinal purposes.

Rachada Dhnadirek, deputy spokesman for the government, told a press briefing yesterday the bill aims to prevent the public from abusing kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, once it is legalized in Thailand.

The cabinet earlier this year agreed to a ministry proposal to reclassify the plant from a Type-5 narcotic due to its medicinal properties. The plant has long been used as traditional medicine to treat pain, fever, dysentery and diarrhoea.

According to the ministry’s bill, if passed, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) would be authorised to approve the production, import and export of kratom products for medicinal purposes. Those who violate the rules would face a two-year jail sentence and a fine of up to 200,000 baht.

Those under 18 and pregnant women would be prohibited from buying or selling the plant, with similar penalties. Also, the plant would be banned from schools, dormitories, public parks, zoos, amusement parks and online markets visited by youths.

If approved, the act would also ban the advertising of kratom products. Those who violate this rule would face a six-month sentence with a 500,000-baht fine. Ms Rachada said the bill will be forwarded to the Office of the Council of State (OCS) for review before it is approved by the House.

What is kratom?

Kratom is a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa) native to Southeast Asia, with leaves that contain compounds that can have psychotropic (mind-altering) effects.

Kratom is not currently an illegal substance and has been easy to order on the internet. It is sometimes sold as a green powder in packets labeled “not for human consumption.” It is also sometimes sold as an extract or gum.

n recent years, some people have used kratom as an herbal alternative to medical treatment in attempts to control withdrawal symptoms and cravings caused by addiction to opioids or to other addictive substances such as alcohol. There is no scientific evidence that kratom is effective or safe for this purpose; further research is needed.

Points to Remember

  • Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, with leaves that can have psychotropic effects.
  • Kratom is not currently illegal and has been easy to order on the internet.
  • Most people take kratom as a pill or capsule. Some people chew kratom leaves or brew the dried or powdered leaves as a tea. Sometimes the leaves are smoked or eaten in food. Two compounds in kratom leaves, mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain, producing sedation, pleasure, and decreased pain.
  • Mitragynine can also interact with other receptor systems in the brain to produce stimulant effects.
  • Reported health effects of kratom use include nausea, sweating, seizures, and psychotic symptoms.
  • Commercial forms of kratom are sometimes laced with other compounds that have caused deaths.
  • Some users have reported becoming addicted to kratom.
  • Behavioral therapies and medications have not specifically been tested for treatment of kratom addiction.

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