It wasn’t very long ago that synthetic drugs like Spice, K2, bath salts, and others were in the news. Headlines across the country blamed the synthetics for grisly crimes, paranoid hallucinations, and highlighted the ease of access to these “at the time” legal drugs. Since, most states have banned these substances yet they are still around but not quite as easy to get as walking into a smoke shop and grabbing a few packs off the counter.
While people across the country certainly appreciate the efforts, there is another drug that is gaining popularity, Kratom. The lack of access to the synthetics has caused the abuse of Kratom to skyrocket. This is because it is easy to get ahold of and can be obtained at convenience stores, tobacco shops, and kava bars.
Kratom is legal, natural and addictive. It is derived from the leaf of a tree grown in Southeast Asia. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Kratom is widely available on the Internet. Kratom is mainly being abused orally as a tea, but some people chew Kratom leaves. The plant is in the coffee family.
Kratom produces a high that is a cross between a sedative and a stimulant. The side effects from Kratom include nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination, hallucinations, and loss of appetite. Kratom is very addictive and there is a major misconception about it because it is legal and so readily available. In fact, Kratom is just as addictive as heroin is.
Kratom, which is falsely marketed often as a medicinal alternative is beginning to show up in U.S. emergency rooms, with doctors saying they are dealing with people sick from taking it. Frank LoVecchio, medical director of the Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center in Phoenix, Arizona said, “Every month somebody is trying to get a new ‘safe high.’ Kratom is definitely not safe.”
As with many herbal and chemical products on the market, science and law enforcement are playing catch-up. Very little research has been done so far and this is why it is still legal and unregulated in the United States. The marketing angle for Kratom calls it, “a strong and reliable herbal painkiller, to relieve depression and as a social and professional enhancer to intensify communicational skills and induce higher motivation.”
Drugs Of Concern
If the DEA concludes that Kratom poses a public health risk, the agency can request that the Department of Health and Human Services place it on a schedule of banned and controlled substances. Kratom is illegal in a number of countries in Europe and Asia — most notably Thailand, where much of it is produced. The DEA says that Kratom is the third most commonly used illegal drug in Thailand. In Thailand, they mix Kratom with cough syrup and Coke, tranquilizers and marijuana to produce a narcotic drink called “4×100.”
In the US, Kratom is alive and well. For now, kratom is being vigorously marketed in the United States. Some sellers label it as “incense,” claiming it is not sold for human consumption while also requiring that buyers be at least 18 years old. One variation being flaunted for its potency is Maeng Da, which means “pimp grade kratom.”
Kratom overdoses include hallucinations, delusions, listlessness, tremors, aggression, constipation and nausea. Withdrawal symptoms tend to mirror heroin withdrawals and include chills, aching muscles and gooseflesh, among others. Kratom is under scrutiny, having been added to a Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of “drugs and chemicals of concern.”