Kratom has been a hot topic lately, was almost banned and continues to gain media attention. The following is a conversation we had with Michael Slater of Modern Recovery. We discussed kratom, a plant medicine native to South East Asia, which is often used for addiction recovery.
All About Kratom: Uses, Addiction Recovery and Legality
Hi Michael, thanks for chatting with us today. So how did you become interested in kratom as a tool for addiction recovery?
Hey Jay, thanks for having me.
Well, I stayed in Mexico for a while and traveled around to different providers. We just wanted to learn more about the practice itself and to learn more about the medicine. And that really opened the door to a lot of holistic alternatives.
Since then, I’ve been working with ayahuasca, I’ve been working with kratom, and with different providers. Our main purpose with all of this was to let people know that ‘Hey, you have options’. Our second goal was to provide evidence-based treatment. Because right now the dominant model in the US and pretty much all over the world is Alcoholics Anonymous (85 % of) all treatment models base their practice on Alcoholics Anonymous.
The fact of the matter is that it only works for 5 to 10 percent of the people that go through it. And even less than 5 stay sober for longer than 5 years. The research shows that less than 5 like 2.5 percent of people who go through alcoholics anonymous will stay sober for more than five years, or stay abstinent for more than 5 years. So now, we are looking at, we have so many different models that are available for evidence based treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, dialectical behavior therapy.
What I’ve been trying to do is combine the two worlds, science & holistic, plant medicine. And it has literally changed my life. So in modern recovery we are trying to raise awareness and get people hooked up as a treatment referral business or non-profit organization with the goal of getting people the help that they need and getting them set up with the right type of provider.
So in terms of what a person could expect if they call you, you said you do a lot of referral stuff – so do you do consultations? Could you speak a bit about the process and maybe compare and contrast it to more traditional AA treatments?
This is just so different for each individual and so multi-faceted that there is no one simple solution. Plant medicine might not be the solution for someone. And Alcoholics Anonymous might work for another.
What I do is try to get to the cause and put together a treatment plan that is going to work for that individuals unique needs. So if somebody comes and they have a strong faith in God or Jesus Christ or Allah, you know wat? The program might be a challenge.
A spiritual program like Alcoholics Anonymous might work for them. It might work better for them. You know? It’s just all based on their individual needs. But because I specialize in holistic alternatives, most of the people that reach out to me have already attempted a traditional route, they could be on their third, fourth, or fifth treatment attempt or recovery attempt. So then we say ‘Okay, what else can we look at?’ And there is a lot of different holistic alternatives that are available to them. And so what we do is look at different providers, what they can afford, and go from there. Then we will try to get them set up with an after care plan in their hometown.
So it sounds like one of the big differences between Modern Recover and other programs like alcoholics anonymous, is the that your program focusing on emphasizing the unique needs of the individual versus the role of a higher power.
Yea. What we are saying is don’t put your faith in a God, but rather in the hands of a professional. I always recommend for after care planning to find yourself a good AA _____ addiction certified specialist. But here is the problem – there are not enough of them available. And a lot of people’s insurance won’t cover it. So that is something as advocates, we are trying to make that change happen. We are seeing that with the health care reform, that they are making treatment available to anyone who needs it. And that is a really good thing – we are seeing progress.
So you are seeing support from the insurance companies or I guess how supportive have the health care industry or the kind of government policies or the people you need to convince that this is good, has there been support or a lot of resistance?
Well, yeah, Obama just signed in to law to make ceboxin available – or more available to people who need it. I mean, every time you turn on the news today you see ‘Heroin Epidemic’ and that is what it is. We are facing a heroin and opium epidemic. But it was created by the pharmaceutical companies. And in my opinion, a pharmaceutical solution is not the answer. The answer is getting the addict detoxed and clean off of the opiate. And that is where ____ comes in.
So that is a good Segway into talking about a general treatment process if someone comes to you and its determined that this program might be good for them, what would the process be? Maybe for example a consultation and then
Well it is really based on your recourses. Not a lot of heroin addicts have 4,5, or 10 k dollars to go to Canada or to Mexico. A lot of them are felons, they can’t leave the country. So then ibegane isn’t an option. So then they sit down with me and we go over other alternatives. As far as other alternatives from ibogain, Ibegane is hands When it comes to addiction and treating addiction, ibegane is hands down the most effective tool we have in the world today. But we do have other options, especially when it comes to opioid dependence. As far as alternatives from ibegane, we have chiantos, we have chiantos analogues. I am working with two different herbologist which are breaking down the chiantos 4. Which is an opiate detoxification remedy. It basically eliminates, alleviates 80% of the withdrawal symptoms. And it works very effectively for short acting opiates. It was developed in Vietnam by Dr. Sung. And they have been using it over there for almost 20 years.
Again, they charge almost 150 a box for chiantos and most opioid users will need at least 6 boxes to completely detoxify. So again, the financial piece comes into it again. And the insurance companies won’t cover this type of stuff. So we have been developing our own form of chiantos. And like I said, I have been working with two herbalogists. And we are pretty sure We have been conducting some trials. Some wrote trials with different addicts who are all in acute withdrawal from a short acting opiate and we are finding it to be nearly 90% as effective as chiantos 4. Heantos
So the other step when we are using heantos or these other herbs or mix of herbs to alleviate withdrawal, probably the most commonly used herbs or plants is kratom. Kratom works really well binding to capa opiod receptors the same way oxycodone or any of your pharmaceutical opiates would. But it does not create the same type of physical withdrawal. So, we use that in combination with heantos or ????, and we are finding that to be very effective for detoxification as well.
There has been a couple of articles, I think one recently in the New York Times, where there has been some criticism or of the dangers of replacing one addictive substance for another. For example, in the recent New York Times article they mentioned Kratom and that exact same thing. Do you think that is a myth or cause for concern?
Jay, right now we are in the middle of an epidemic, and more people are dying from heroin and prescription drugs than ever before. Right now the harm reduction movement is gaining so much momentum. And anyone who studies harm reduction psychotherapy would tell you that a safer alternative is better than ultimate consequence which would be overdose and death, right?
There is no comparison between Kratom and heroin. There is no comparison between heroin and marijuana. If I can get somebody on Kratom or if I can get someone on marijuana their chances of overdosing have dropped 100%.
Perhaps in an ideal world, or in an ideal situation, we all live addiction free and chemical free. But with this the idea is harm reduction and essentially not over-dosing and not dying.
Absolutely. And to think that we are ever going to live in a chemical free world is a fairy tale. It’s just a fairy tale. You know? We have been using chemicals from coffee to sugar to chocolate for hundreds of years. It is never going to change. What we need to change is our dependence on pharmaceuticals. And start depending on natural, healthy alternatives.
Absolutely. And then at that point, is the process one where if Kratom or ibegane is used to essentially help with withdrawals and the recovery process, is the goal then to remove those items as well? Or is the emphasis on an ongoing maintenance program? Or in terms of environmental factors as well, that may help the sort of root causes of addiction as well.
Well, yeah, you know it is really sort of up to the individual. IF we look at the pharmaceutical solution, which is methadone and suboxone, those are developed for someone to be on for the rest of their life. So to me, an addict goes from heroin to kratom or from heroin to marijuana, or even heroin to a safer new-tropic, you know we haven’t even touched base on that. There is opiate alternatives which are SSREs or SSRIs which work like the pharmaceuticals but are much safer and in my opinion, you are not giving your money to or dancing with the devil, let’s just say that. Which is big Pharm.
So yeah, you know you can become cross-addicted. You can become cross-addicted to anything. But here is the thing, when we do an evaluation with somebody, we work with them to find out what will work best for them. Because essence? Based recovery works great for some people and some people need that. But here is the fact- the people who can’t do abstinence based recovery- where are they? What is the solution for them right now? It is either jail or death. No, no it doesn’t have to be like that. We have alternatives. We have safe alternatives by embracing harm reduction.
So, how important is it then to work with a professional if a person is trying to address their addictions and withdrawals and they want to use ibegaines or kratom or plant based medicine. Do you suggest that people go into it themselves or kind of self-medicating? I would imagine that there would be a lot of importance in working with a professional who can oversee and asses and help reduce the possibility of abusing the plant medicine as well.
I really feel like we need a different scale to assess the severity of someone’s addiction. So if somebody is going to be in acute withdrawal and they are experiencing life threatening symptoms, then yes they need a professional to get them through the initial detoxification process. But I will tell you, probably 60-7-% of individuals who are addicted to opiates could do this safely at home on their own. And that is the information that I provide through modern recovery is how you can do this safely and effectively. The solution is not necessarily going to rehab or working with a professional, the solution is through education, man.
And that is what harm reduction is all about.
So for somebody wanting to try this, what would their first step be or what are some tips to help be more effective? Or where would they start?
Well there is literally hundreds of online vendors that you can buy kratom from and have it overnighted to your house. Stay away from headshops that sell kratom or that have any ????? to them. If kratom is being sold in a novelty pack or in the form of an energy drink, stay the hell away from it. Buy from an herbologist or from a trusted plant medicine supplier. We really haven’t touched on ayahuasca, which is kind of a gray area in America because DMT is illegal. But DMT containing plants are not illegal. And you can buy them online and have them shipped to your house with no concerns of breaking the law and brewing your own ayahuasca in your house is very easy and I walk people through the steps of doing just that.
And that is legal to do in the United States?
Ayahuasca is a very gray area that It is legal for a couple religious sects to do it in the United States. To possess the plants, it is not illegal. To brew the plants and to consume them, it is a real gray area. Now I have never heard of anyone being prosecuted for possession of Ayahuasca or for consumption of ayahuasca. But I am not saying that it can’t happen.
Right, so it should be pursued with caution.
What about some of the other things- ibegaine, kratom? I’ve also seen more attention on Kratom with it possibly being scheduled? What are the legal considerations with Kratom and ibegaine?
Well ibegaine is a schedule I drug in the United States. Possession of it, consumption of it is illegal, and you are looking at a felony for that. You are in America and that is why you have to go to Canada or Mexico or Europe or Africa or New Zealand or Brazil. This is a primary treatment modality in all of the world except America.
So in those countries it is used as a medicine and it is legal. Does it require a prescription or is it something that is just readily available?
In South Africa, this just happened last week, ibogaine was scheduled as a series 6 drug, which means it can be prescribed by a physician. We are making headway, man. We are making headway with it. Slowly but surely.
What about Kratom?
Kratom is illegal in 6 states. Kratom has been banned in certain counties, I am not sure which ones. I will tell you why this is happening. It is happening because people are exploiting the plant. People are exploiting the plant and selling them in headshops as a novelty way to get high.
This is what irritates me with all of the movements. We are seeing the same thing happen with marijuana. I love that marijuana laws are changing and we are seeing more states legalize it. But what is happening in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon is really concerning to me. These are plant medicines. They are not novelties. They are not a replacement for alcohol. This is a powerful medicine.
And I agree 100% with that. After having spent some time in Colorado myself and doing some research and writing about the legalization and the industry in general and just going to some of these so called medical dispensaries, my impression was that it was nothing more than for people to just get stoned legally. Not a place I would want to bring my grandmother if she needed to get marijuana for legitimate medical concerns. And I think that is also very harmful to getting any real leverage or movement with these important medicines.
Right. Right. But as long as there is a demand, there is always going to be someone there with their hands out trying to get paid. And that is America for you, you know?
Yes. Yes it is. Is there anything else you would like to end with saying? How people can learn more or contact you or any last things?
Yeah, mostly social media. Our website is under development right now as we are a newer organization. Contact me through social media. We have a closed discussion group that discusses all of these topics in detail at modern recovery now. Or we have a fan page called “Modern Recovery”. And our website is called ModernRecovery.org
Okay, great. We will wrap up here. Thanks again to you, Michael Slater from modern recovery.