DEA delays its ban on kratom

Q. What is kratom used for around the world? Here it is a supplement, but the DEA is planning to ban it and list it as a Schedule 1 drug.

Apparently, though, it has some beneficial effects. Can you help bring this kratom supplement into the light?

A. Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is native to Southeast Asia, where its leaves are used as a mild stimulant and pain reliever. It appears to have a calming effect that most people find pleasant.

Recently, Americans have tried using it to manage chronic pain or to help overcome narcotic addiction. It has not been extensively studied, though, so the benefit/risk balance is not well-established.

You are correct that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) planned to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 drug, like LSD and heroin. Such compounds are considered very dangerous and without medicinal use. The agency feared that this plant could be abused.

The DEA is delaying this action for the time being, however, because it received so many messages from the American public asking that kratom not be banned. According to a report in Scientific American, a DEA spokesman said the agency is listening: “We don’t want the public to believe we are simply a group of government bureaucrats who don’t care about their safety and health.”

Q. My father recently died unexpectedly from a heart attack. He had seen his doctor shortly before this event and had been given a clean bill of health. His cholesterol levels were naturally low – under 170 – and his doctor said there were no signs of heart disease.

I do not understand how my father could have died with no advance warning. I want to avoid his fate. What should I do? Do you have a booklet that talks about diet and other strategies to avoid heart disease?

A. It has been estimated that roughly half of people with heart attacks have normal LDL cholesterol levels (American Heart Journal, January 2009). That helps explain why the American Heart Association has abandoned specific target goals for LDL cholesterol and instead has gone to a risk calculator that considers other factors as well.

Psyllium, niacin and magnesium are supplements that may be helpful. Ask your doctor whether aspirin is appropriate, given your family history.

Q. I started taking cod-liver oil 10 years ago and have only had one cold over that time. I am convinced that, together with parsley and cinnamon, cod-liver oil has strengthened my immune system.

A. Cod-liver oil has a long-standing reputation for warding off winter colds. Most of the studies of this supplement have been done in young children. Cod-liver oil seems to reduce the number of upper respiratory tract infections in kids (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, December 2010; Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology, November 2004).

We couldn’t find any research on cod-liver oil to prevent colds in adults.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their Web site: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

2016 King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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