The herbal stimulant kratom is creating a buzz among addictions specialists in the US due to its heroin-like effects in larger doses. Currently, the drug is sold as a tea in many pharmacies, but has gained ground as the latest in organic and legal drugs in the US right now.
Kratom, or mitragyna speciosa, are wide and oval shaped, loosely resembling mint leaves. The drug has been used as a herbal stimulant for years, but it has been discovered that in higher doses, it has the effect of sedation on those who take it. There are YouTube testimonials from young men who have just taken the drug, saying that it is “an opiate with a roof where you can only get so high,” according to one of the videos.
Doses range anywhere from two to 10 grams, and kratom is generally sold as raw leaves or in pill form. Prices can range from around $15 to as much as $50, depending on the quantity of capsules or how big of a bag of leaves you are purchasing. It was, however, tagged on the US Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) list of Drugs and Chemicals of Concern in January 2013.
However, the heroin-like drug kratom appears to be creating a buzz among addictions specialists and law enforcement for all the wrong reasons. The DEA’s investigation into the drug is ongoing, but the drug and those who sell it have gained steady numbers online. Over 2,300 people like the topic of kratom on Facebook, and a Google search nets 652,000 hits.
The drug is currently being sold in smoke shops across the US, and while some states have banned the sale of the drug – Ohio and Indiana are among them – the drug is widely available online. Some claim that it is an ideal medicine against pain and is good for helping induce sleep, but the drug is not approved for medical use anywhere in the US.
Massachussetts toxicologist Edward Boyer says the drug can cause liver damage and that children need to keep their distance from it. Wesley Todd, who runs Mayan Kratom, says the drug helped him cope with the pain following a motorcycle accident, but the drug has become so big that his competition, Michael Pilney, who runs Lucky Kratom, allegedly offered undercover drug enforcement agents seven pounds of cocaine to kill Todd. Pilney is currently facing solicitation of murder charges; Todd used to work for him.
Todd says kratom has become so popular that he has tens of thousands of customers across 47 states and two countries. In spite of the popularity, though, Boyer says parents need to remain cautious about anything their children might be getting involved in. Side effects of kratom use include anorexia, insomnia, weight loss, frequent urination and constipation. While kratom has created quite the buzz in a variety of circles, the US Drug Enforcement Agency is continuing its investigation into the drug, and they are monitoring kratom closely. According to the research from the DEA, those experiencing withdrawals from kratom could endure jerky limbs, achy muscles, and there is also the potential for kratom psychosis, where the user experiences delusions and confusion.
By Christina St-Jean