With its ability to interact with the body’s opiate receptors in much the same way that opiates do, kratom is becoming a popular choice for people who are trying to dampen the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Many have reported that it made their detox experience more tolerable. However, the legal status of kratom gives many people pause in trying this solution, and with good reason.

The question of whether or not kratom is legal in the United States cannot be answered with just a simple yes or no. To say that it is a grey area is an understatement.

Let’s start with the obvious.

The states of Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, and Vermont have all passed laws making possession and/or use of kratom illegal.

In Michigan, Iowa, and New Jersey there is pending legislation (that looks likely to pass) to make kratom illegal within those states as well.

In some states like Florida, kratom is legal, but individual counties throughout the state have their own ordinances regulating it.

Throughout most of the rest of the United States, kratom is legal, although some states do have laws in place restricting its sale or use to anyone under the age of 18. If you are considering trying kratom, you will want to check with your local state’s laws and regulations as well as those of your individual county or burough.

Confused yet? Well, here is where things start to get kind of grey.

In September of 2014, U.S. Marshals, urged on by the Food and Drug Administration, seized 25,000 pounds of raw kratom material valued at over $5 million from Rosefield Management in California.

The FDA says that kratom is promoted on numerous websites for its psychoactive and opioid-like analgesic effects as well as in the treatment of opiate addiction, but it has not been approved in the United States for any medical use.

Recently, the FDA issued an import alert on kratom. The alert identifies kratom as a dietary ingredient under federal law, but it is clearly a new dietary ingredient. An NDI would need to be filed by anyone seeking to manufacture and market the ingredient.

The FDA stated that in its review of literature on kratom there are “serious concerns regarding the toxicity of kratom in multiple organ systems. Consumption of kratom can lead to a number of health impacts, including respiratory depression, nervousness, agitation, aggression, sleeplessness, hallucinations, delusions, tremors, loss of libido, constipation, skin hyperpigmentation, nausea, vomiting, and severe withdrawal signs and symptoms. In the absence of a history of use or other evidence of safety establishing that kratom will reasonably be expected to be safe as a dietary ingredient, kratom and kratom-containing dietary supplements and bulk dietary ingredients are adulterated under section 402(f)(1)(B) of the Act [21 U.S.C. 342(f)(1)(B)], because they contain a new dietary ingredient for which there is inadequate information to provide reasonable assurance that such ingredient does not present a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury.”

“We have identified kratom as a botanical substance that poses a risk to public health and has the potential for abuse,” said the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs Melinda Plaisier. “This action was taken to safeguard the public from this dangerous product, and the FDA will continue to take aggressive enforcement actions against products that are promoted for uses that are unapproved.”

With kratom being promoted for uses that they are not approved for or proven to work for, it is only more likely that we will see further crackdowns in the future.

The biggest danger is that much of the kratom out there is kratom extract, not kratom herb. Without knowing or understanding the concentration it is potentially easier to overdose on than heroin. That makes it easy to understand just why the FDA is trying to reign in the distribution of kratom.

Although many will say they saw benefits from using kratom for easing their opiate withdrawal, treating chronic pain, or just a general overall well-being, the fact is that it is potentially highly addictive just like opiates and can be dangerous if misused.

Whether kratom is legal or not in your area, one should be hesitant in considering its use. Many will argue that the cons against kratom are unfounded and overblown. Perhaps, but it also worth noting that there was a time when heroin was promoted as a safer, non-addictive alternative to morphine.

For other frequently asked questions about kratom, consult our kratom FAQ.