estimated read time - 11 min
estimated read time - 11 min
Kava has a rich history in the Pacific Islands, where it was traditionally used for sacred ceremonies and as a traditional medicine. Nowadays, more and more people are turning to kava for its relaxing and calming effects, which has made it even more popular.
However, there's some debate going on about whether kava should be classified as a drug or a dietary supplement.
The word "drug" often comes with an air of negativity in our social landscape. Many millenials to baby boomers still remember the negative connotations seared into the ever-present frying-egg-drug commercials of the 90's. But we must remember that drugs also include pharmaceutical drugs (which is arguable in their safety). In general, a drug is a substance that can serve various purposes such as diagnosing, preventing, treating, or alleviating symptoms of a disease or health condition. Additionally, drugs have the potential to alter the functions of the brain and body, leading to changes in mood, perception, and behavior. Some drugs can even enhance the production of specific neurotransmitters in the brain, while others can inhibit their release.
Depending on the purpose and legality of their use, drugs can be categorized as either prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, or illicit substances. While some drugs are strictly intended for medical treatment, others may be abused for recreational purposes (ie, street versions of heroin, cocaine, etc)
Supplements come in various forms such as pills, powders, liquids, capsules, and even gummies, and they are designed to provide extra nutrients like minerals, vitamins, amino acids, or other substances. However, they are not meant to replace a healthy diet but can be beneficial if someone is lacking in specific nutrients.
Common types of supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements, multivitamins, and fish oil supplements.
While some supplements have been proven effective through clinical studies, others have not been thoroughly examined for safety and potency. In the US, supplements are classified under the food category rather than drugs and are not subjected to the same rigorous testing and approval procedures. Nevertheless, supplement manufacturers should be responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of their products(9).
Supplements and drugs have several differences.
Kava's classification varies from country to country and it can be marketed as a dietary supplement or regulated as a drug. The debate on whether kava should be classified as a drug revolves around its potential for abuse and dependence. Reports suggest that kava users may experience withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation but not necessarily become addicted in the classical form of addiction.
Kava COULD be classified as a drug due to several reasons.
But surprise surprise, it is not considered to be a drug
In the US, kava is classified as a dietary supplement and is not a controlled substance, but is subject to FDA regulations. The FDA has issued advisories regarding the potential health risks associated with kava, and has been closely monitoring reports of side effects since 2002(11). Some states in the US also have their own regulations over kava, such as requiring warning labels on products and prohibiting driving under the influence of kava.
In Canada, kava is classified as a natural health product and regulated under the Natural Health Products Regulations, but is not allowed to be sold due to its potential for liver damage. However, it can be sold if it is part of an approved product by Health Canada.
HOWEVER, In Australia, kava is considered a depressant drug and its importing, distribution, and advertising are strictly controlled by the government. Companies can import kava products as long as they meet Australia's national food standard, but state and territory governments still have the final say on whether kava can be sold or bought in their respective territories(12).
Some countries, such as England, Germany, Switzerland, and others, have also classified kava as a drug due to its potential for liver toxicity and negative interactions with other substances. Kava supplements are considered safe if taken in moderation, but long-term and heavy use of kava is still a topic of discussion. Some experts insist that kava should be regulated as a drug due to its potential for negative side effects and interactions with medications.
If you’re interested to know about the legality of kava in your country, check out our blog here.
Kava is known to have psychoactive properties, but it is not known to produce a “high” the same way some illicit substances like marijuana and opioids do. The kavalactones in kava have shown to produce sedative and anxiolytic properties, but its effects are milder, and they include feelings of relaxation, stress relief, sedation and mild euphoria. We kind of compare this to a very strong chamomile tea (The flowery one your grandmother drank every evening). Kava's effects are well-known and may help ease stress and anxiety.
Kava’s effects depend on some factors which include the dosage, the quality of kava, the person’s tolerance towards kava. It is important to consume kava in moderation as it can have side effects when taken in excessive amounts.
Technically, kava will not show up in drug tests unless specifically checked, however there do not currently exist any drug tests that test for kava. Majority of the drug tests are designed to detect illegal substances such as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, and benzodiazepines. Since kava is not illegal, it is not normally included in drug tests.
However, if an organization has concerns regarding the use of kava, they may include kava in the drug test, assuming they can create a drug test for kava.
In conclusion, there are different types of drugs and supplements but the classification of kava is different in each country. Kava may be considered a dietary supplement or a drug depending on the country's regulations and their view on the potential health risk of the product. In the US, kava is considered a dietary supplement, however sellers and consumers are advised to follow the warnings and guidelines set by the government.
Concerns on kava's potential for health risks, dependency and abuse have influenced other countries like the United Kingdom, Greece and some Western countries to regulate kava as a drug and should have a prescription. It is recommended to consume kava in moderation to avoid possible side effects. If you’re thinking of taking kava, it is best to consult a health professional first to ensure safety.
Please do remember we are not medically trained physicians and nothing in here should be substituted for medical advice.
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