Kratom: Herbal supplement or opioid?

Kratom: Herbal supplement or opioid?
Source: WDAM.

JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The herbal supplement is sold at gas stations, vape shops and convenience stores around the Pine Belt, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to stop using in.

Last week, the FDA released a warning about kratom, a plant native to southeast Asia.  Officials said the supplement has opioid-like effects that could turn dangerous and even deadly.

The FDA reports an increase in the calls to the poison control linked to kratom, several hundred from 2010-2015.  In 2017, there were 44 reported overdose deaths linked to kratom, one of those was in Mississippi.

"It is a concern for us," said Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director John Dowdy.  "We had one drug overdose death in Rankin County in 2017 that was a direct result of an overdose of kratom."

"People are actually starting to abuse this particular herbal supplement and we have people entering into treatment from an addiction to kratom," Dowdy said.

In Jones County, Lieutenant Robert Little said the department started noticing kratom being used about a year ago among drug court participants.  Little said a normal drug test does not detect kratom, so while it is a prohibited substance for participants, it was not being detected easily.

"It reminds me of spice or bath salts when they first came out," said Little. "When we see something like this, people are experimenting, they don't know how much to take, it's not regulated. It's only time until we see negative effects in the population."

Stores sell kratom in a powder, liquid or capsule form.  On the packaging it states "not for sale to minors," but Little said that may not be questioned regularly with purchases.

The products found in Jones County came from distributors in other states.  There are no directions on how to use the substance, but one package did state "100% natural."

"A lot of the people that don't want kratom regulated argue it's a plant and they don't want it regulated," said Little.  "Cocaine comes from the cocoa leaves, opiates come from the opium poppy flower. Just because it's a plant doesn't mean you need to pick it up and put it in your mouth."