Kratom: Dangerous now, illegal later

Kratom: Dangerous now, illegal later

PINE BELT (WDAM) - You can find it on the shelves at gas stations and shops through out the Pine Belt.

That drug is called Kratom.

It is a tropical evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia. The leaves are ground up into pills, or liquid form, then ingested.

However, being in possession of it can soon land you behind bars.

When taken at a low dosage, the pills act as a stimulant and boost energy. The more you take, the more the drug gives off a high similar to opiates.

"It makes them feel a calming of the senses and numbing of emotions," said Vanessa Cox, Clinical Director at Pine Grove Next Step.

Cox said these pills are extremely addictive.

"Children these days have such access on buying drugs online and walking into a head shop and gas station and being sold these things." Cox said.

Cox also said Kratom is the most popular drug with recovering addicts.

"They are also using Kratom as a way to treat themselves to come down," said Cox. "The drug is not detectable in drug screenings."

Judge Bob Helfrich sees people struggling with this everyday in drug court, and also said several abuse this drug during probation.

"The danger of it is that it's sold in convenience stores and head shops and there is absolutely no controls on it," Helfrich said.

Helfrich said he is glad the DEA is taking action to keep these drugs out of the wrong hands.

"I think it should've happened a long time ago we need to move quicker to to get these substances they're bringing in classified as illegal drugs,"Helfrich said.

Advocates with Keep Kratom Legal issued a statement to Seven On Your Side claiming that the DEA has exaggerated the health risks of Kratom.

A news release issued by the movement claimed that those who use Kratom are not teenagers, but US military veterans, chronic pain sufferers, and recovering opiod addicts trying to avoid relapse.

You can see their full statement here:

"As one of many kratom advocates, I was made aware that your team is planning to air a report on kratom, and concerns were voiced that the story appears to reflect the side in favor of the DEA scheduling of kratom. There is a very large community of citizens across the country who oppose this ban. A White House petition opposing the scheduling has already garnered over 125,000 signatures, and on Tuesday of this week, there was a march on Washington DC where hundreds of kratom activists demonstrated their opposition of this ban. Note: These are not teenagers seeking the latest legal high; these are US military veterans, chronic pain sufferers, seniors, mothers, fathers, and recovering opioid addicts who are taking it to avoid relapsing into more dangerous opioid medications. There are also several professional organizations who support 

I, along with many kratom-using Americans, believe he DEA have exaggerated the health risks of kratom. They state that poison control centers received an increase in calls -- over 660 in the past 5 years, but this is presented out of context; this is actually still a very small number, considering the many thousands of calls per year for prescription and over the counter analgesics received by the same poison control centers. The purported 15 "kratom-related" deaths per year were all the result of combining kratom with other, more dangerous drugs. Also, the claims of seizures and other adverse effects seem to be taken out of context from studies of patients with preexisting medical conditions that predispose them to these types of effects. Most importantly, the DEA claims there is no recognized medical benefits of kratom, while many studies exist and are readily available by doctors and scientists showing the vast promise this plant for helping chronic pain, opioid addiction, and other illnesses.

The vast majority of responsible kratom users are actually in favor of better regulations for this herb. We don't want to see it in gas stations and smoke shops in brightly colored packaging. We don't want to see it sold to minors. But simply banning this herb outright will have a devastating effect on countless Americans who rely on this herb that appears to help so many and appears incredibly safe from what we know so far. Yes, further research needs to be done on it, but this will become nearly impossible as a Schedule I controlled substance, and we may never know the true potential of this plant to help America's opioid addicts and chronic pain sufferers."

By the end of the month, officials plan on making sure the drug is off the shelves and out of harm's way.

The drug becomes illegal beginning September 30.