Plant-based drug growing in popularity could have deadly side effects

Some hail Kratom as a miracle for beating opioid addiction, but it’s banned in other states and countries.

As reported on News Center 7 at 5:30 p.m., at just about any smoke and vape shop, the products behind the counter include the latest craze, Kratom, in liquid, powder, or capsule.

“So I’ve got some liquid Kratom. And all of these powders that say Thai, Vietnam, or Indo, they’re all from that region.” Smoke shop owner Alexis Adams said. “You can put them in your purse. You can put them in your car. You can put them in your pocket They’re just quick, easy to go.”

Adams said she has seen an influx of customers seeking out the plant-based product at her shop. In the U.S. about 1.7 million people over the age of 12 admitted to using Kratom in 2021.

“It’s definitely grown just just in the last four months It’s gone really big,” Adams said.

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Kratom is a tropical tree native to southeast Asia that has both Stimulant and sedative effects, depending on how it’s dosed.

“So when someone comes in, they’re like, Hey, I have never tried Kratom. What do you recommend? My first question would be like, What do you want it for? Do you want it for stress? Do you want it for pain management? Do you want it for focus, relaxation?” Adams said.

The element of self-diagnosing and self-dosing has the DEA listing Kratom as a drug and chemical of concern. ER Toxicologists like Dr. Josef Thundiyil are raising concerns as well.

Many people that I’ve seen are using it to try to help wean off of opioid use disorder or opioid addiction,” Thundiyil said. “It’s a concern because we we still don’t have good studies to tell us who will benefit from it, what the right doses, who is going to be at risk for side effects.

One of the known potential side effects is addiction since Kratom mimics the effects of an opioid. The drug is blamed for dozens of deaths across the country.

“There is a perception, because it’s sold in the tea shop that it is safe. And like with any drug, we don’t quite know what the safe dose is. We don’t know what the interactions might be with someone’s underlying medical conditions or medications,” Thundiyil said.

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Adams says her regulars have had positive outcomes, adding that using Kratom is better than the alternative.

“I’m not gonna say completely because a lot of it is for pain But that’s also because they’ve been taking the opioids to help that so they are replacing it and it is helping them a lot. I see a lot of change in here,” Adams said when asked if a lot of her customs use Kratom to replace an opioid addiction.

One of the most high profile Kratom overdose cases happened in Florida. The family of a Palm Beach County woman won an $11 million judgement after she died of a Kratom overdose.

Kratom remains legal in Ohio, however the state has attempted to ban it.

There is a bill in the statehouse that would require standards for processing and selling Kratom, which would require licenses and inspections.

If passed, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy could not regulate Kratom as a ‘controlled substance.’

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