What is Kratom, This New Drug on DEA Watch List?
What is Kratom?
Kratom is an herbal substance made of the crushed leaves of a tropical tree, Mitragyna speciosa, that grows in Southeast Asia. In Thailand the leaves have been chewed or infused in teas for thousands of years to ease muscle pain. It’s been banned there since 1943, though the reasons were economic, instead of for reasons of public health and safety – it was lowering government tax revenues levied on opium distribution. Recently the stuff has begun to show up on store shelves in the U.S.
What Does it Do?
Sold in pill or powder form and mixed into beverages, the drug produces a stimulant effect in small amounts. Some have compared Kratom to marijuana. In larger amounts it acts as a sedative. In extreme cases Kratom has caused delusions or hallucinations. At least one patient who took it in conjunction with another stimulant experienced seizures.
There has not been a great deal of research on Kratom. What is known is that with long-term use people have experienced anorexia, weight loss, sleep disturbance, constipation, frequent urination, dry mouth and darkened skin. Withdrawal from Kratom can produce irritability, aggression, hostility, muscle aches, spasms in the arms and legs and runny nose.
Where Are People Getting Kratom?
Kratom is on the DEA drug watch list, and states such as Ohio and Indiana have made the drug illegal in all its forms. Ohio officials recently busted a drug ring for marketing several illegal substances including Kratom. Yet it’s available online as an herbal remedy.
Kratom can be found in smoke shops marketed as tea, which puts it beyond the reach of the law in some places. Head shop clerks have told customers that the pills can be used as sleep aids or pain relievers. There are reports of some people addicted to prescription opiates using Kratom to ease the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms. And the pills are pretty cheap at just around one dollar each.
YouTube users tout Kratom as an opiate with a roof, meaning that users can only achieve a certain degree of a high. But while online videos try to make Kratom sound harmless, officials say that it’s nothing of the kind. Drug experts liken Kratom to heroin. That’s rather a far cry from the harmless Asian tea it’s being marketed as.