The AP ran a story from the Times Record last week
about differing policies in Arkansas and Oklahoma over kratom, a plant-based drug with sedative sometimes used as a substitute for opioids.

In 2015, the Arkansas State Board of Health banned kratom’s sale in Arkansas by adding its active compounds to the state’s list of Schedule 1 controlled substances. As David Koon reported in a 2016 story for the Arkansas Times, some chronic pain patients and recovering opioid addicts vehemently objected to the move. The plant is a safer and healthier alternative to prescription pain pills, they claim. A handful of other states have also banned kratom.

But as Max Bryan of the Southwest Times Record reported, the sale of kratom is not prohibited in Oklahoma. That means the substance can still be purchased over the counter at some stores, including one in Roland, which is just over the state line from Fort Smith. Oklahoma lawmakers have considered proposals to ban kratom but have not yet done so.

Bryan interviews a drug task force official who told him law enforcement has seized kratom originating in Oklahoma on a few occasions in Sebastian and Crawford counties. The official, Paul Smith, told Bryan he’s seen the drug mostly used by people who were attempting to overcome opioid withdrawal, rather than heavy recreational use. Yet Smith said he still supported Arkansas’s ban on kratom:

Smith said anyone going through an opioid withdrawal — especially a severe one — needs to seek medical attention for his or her symptoms.

“It’s a medical problem that needs to be addressed in a medical setting, not someone who’s trying to do it themselves,” Smith said of opioid withdrawals.