Our View: Drawing the line between pain management and addiction




Until Monday' s meeting, it was obvious that the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors had never heard of Kratom, although those in the addiction recovery field have been dealing with the effects of the product for years. 


Kratom comes from a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, whose leaves contain two addictive compounds that interact with opioid receptors in the brain, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 


There is no minimum age to purchase Kratom. It is sold in convenience stores as a ΒΌ oz. bottled liquid, similar to an energy shot, or as an e-cigarette cartridge. There are also capsuled and powdered versions of the substance available online. 


Monday, supervisors heard from a parade of speakers -- including a woman who said her life was ruined by her husband's abuse of Kratom, law enforcement official and medical professionals -- all urging the supervisors to pass an ordinance making the sale of Kratom a misdemeanor - the maximum punishment a municipality can prescribe. 


A bill to make the sale of Kratom a felony authored by Chuck Younger last year, died in committee, which probably underscores the difficulty in determining where legitimate pain relief ends and recreational use begins. 


For some, Kratom is seen as a legitimate means of pain management or a super-strength energy drink. For others, it's viewed as a legal substitute for heroin and other forms of opiates. A legal high, is the way Younger describes it. 


In either case, those who spoke before the supervisors Monday say it has the potential for addiction. 


Kratom is part of a larger debate that pits the legitimate need to relieve pain against the potential of abuse and addiction. 


By their nature, substances powerful enough to effectively treat chronic pain are likely to create dependence, which is only a step away from addiction. 


But not all pain-relief substances have the same potential for abuse. 


Also in this session, legislators are considering a bill that would legalize medical marijuana, a measure 33 states and the District of Columbia have already approved. 


Although there is some evidence that marijuana can be addictive in some cases, most people who use marijuana do not develop the sort of dependence generally associated with drugs such as heroin and other opiates. Withdrawal symptoms are generally mild among those who stop using marijuana. 


What we all should be able to agree on is that, first, people suffering chronic pain should have access to pain-relief under a doctor's supervision. Rest assured, those who argue most strenuously for banning powerful forms of pain-relief are not subject to the chronic pain that many people legitimately need, potential for dependence/addiction aside. 


We can also agree that addiction is a scourge on our society and all practical measures should be taken to prevent it. 


Almost 100 years ago, British essayist G.K. Chesterton observed that "art, like morality, consists of drawing a line somewhere." 


What our elected officials are now grappling with is drawing the line between pain-management and addiction. 


It matters very much where that line is drawn.



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