Getting kray-zy for opioid alternatives


Nicole Henson

A batch of “prepared” Kratom.

The US Government declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency towards the end of 2017. However, some Chico State students believe they have found a solution to the epidemic.

Kratom is a tropical evergreen tree that grows in Southeast Asia and is starting to become popular in the U.S. for its medicinal, spiritual and recreational purposes. There are over 27 active ingredients, two of which imitate opioid effects, however, according to Dr. Jack Henningfield in his study of kratom released in 2016, kratom itself is not an opioid.

Chico State Philosophy and Political science student Bill Rein support its use for both medicinal and recreational purposes.

“I’ve introduced a lot of people to it,” he said. “One reason I really like it is because its effects can be thought of as similar to weed, and I don’t smoke weed… so if you’re going somewhere and everyone’s smoking, one way to resist temptation is just to make kratom.”

Rein explained how kratom can be ingested multiple ways.

“More recently I’ve been seeing it in capsule form, as it’s gotten more popular and there’s a market for it. But initially, we used to just order bags of it online from the countries themselves super cheap. You get it in powder form and then mix it into a pot of water to make a tea. It’s like a wheatgrass shot times 100, it tastes horrible.”

Rein talked about the reasons why he believes efforts to ban kratom at the federal level were denied.

“I think last summer Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the FDA, went out and he was like, ‘this drug has been involved with 36 overdose deaths.’ Now they are talking about adding it to the drug schedule (this year). And the thing with the 36 deaths, they put that number out there and didn’t link to anything, in press memos they don’t give any citations, but they dropped that, and when people started actually researching it. There’s a lot of other variables like the other drugs in your system. Also 36 deaths, what kind of time period is that? The last year, or five years? 36 deaths in all of recorded history? That number is really mysterious, it’s just kinda out there.”

Bill believes that kratom should be treated like any other substance, and that everyone should know what their body can handle. While he understands that kratom could have adverse side-effects, Bill still believes kratom is safer than traditional prescribed medicine.

“People are using it to deal with withdrawals from opioids. When you’re comparing kratom to opioids, obviously the (effects of kratom over time) are gonna be much less. And then short-term effects, everyone has thrown up on kratom, especially if you’re doing it on an empty stomach.”

Rein is a part of a club where he can voice his opinions on hot-button issues.

“It’s called Young Americans for Liberty. Most of what we have been focusing on last semester is just a drug decriminalization message because that’s what people are interested in,” he explained.

The National club formed on Chico State’s campus last semester and has about 15 regular members according to Bill. They have other plans to raise awareness and make people care about political issues.

Rein is against drug prohibition, for the reason that he doesn’t believe the government has any business deciding what people decide to put in their bodies.

“Yeah, I (think all drugs should be decriminalized). I don’t know of any positive argument for prohibition that is convincing to me.”

“(The US) has this big (opioid) problem, an epidemic. It was literally called a public health emergency in October. It’s been cited as the biggest drug problem we’ve had. We’ve had problems with opiate drugs since the late Nineteenth Century. But doctors have been prescribing these opioids, but why? And that’s why the opioid problem is so bad now is that there is this huge drug-manufacturing industry that didn’t exist 100 years ago, but part of the reason why these drugs were invented is that there is a market for them. And there’s a big market for opioid analgesics and pain-relief pills because people are (in pain).”

Rein has a theory that the opioid epidemic was encouraged when the US banned heroin as a prescription substance in the 1920s.

“So my pet theory is what if we didn’t just ban heroin? Where would we be now? Would we have this problem which is worse than heroin was in the ’20s? I think usually when we get involved with criminalizing drugs, it bites us in the ass further down the road.”


Mitchell Kret can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_arts on Twitter.