There’s a new danger beginning to pop up across the United States, and it’s taking the form of tea.
Kratom, which can be found in its leafy form or powdered, is being sold in alternative bars across the country as an all-natural, herbal dietary supplement which promotes relaxation and relieves pain. The plant itself if native to areas of Southeast Asia and has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries, however, it has been banned for decades in Thailand, a primary supplier. Substance abuse authorities warn it can pose a real danger to the community.
The New York Times reports that though the import of Kratom was banned by the FDA in 2014, they are powerless to stop the sale due to its categorization as a “botanic dietary supplement.” In that same year 25,000 pounds of Kratom was seized from a warehouse in Los Angeles.
So what makes Kratom so dangerous? Just like with Spice, the synthetic marijuana, Kratom is being sold as a safe and legal alternative to illicit drugs without consumers understanding the risks involved with injesting the brew. Some distributors have even gone so far as to label the product “not for human consumption” in order to avoid legal responsibility- you don’t do that if there’s no harm risk of harm.
Dariya Pankova, a 23 year old Brooklyn native in Delray Beach for addiction treatment, didn’t know the dangers of Kratom when she first drank the deceptive tea. She was three months sober and in a vulnerable place in her recovery when she realized Kratom gave her the same relief heroin once had, with the upside of being a legal and natural alternative. Pankova quickly found herself addicted to Kratom but in need of a stronger high; Pankova relapsed into heroin abuse soon after. If she had known that Kratom effects the brain just like the opiate, heroin, she probably would have never risked her sobriety.
“It’s a mind-altering substance, so people like me who are addicts and alcoholics, they think just because it’s legal, it’s fine. It’s a huge epidemic down here, and it’s causing a lot of relapses.” Pankova said.
Unfortunately we do not fully understand the effects of Kratom abuse. Further research is necessary, but we do know Kratom has the potential to cause seizures and respiratory depression. It effects the same neuroreceptors as the highly addictive opiates such as heroin, methadone, oxycodone, and other highly regulated and banned drugs– so why is Kratom still openly sold and consumed? As we learn more about the harmful effects of Kratom hopefully we can better manage the substance and prevent tragedies brought on by the drug.
Were you aware of the dangers of Kratom? Give us your opinion regarding what we should do about this potentially dangerous substance.