Old Drug, New Problems
If you haven’t heard of Kratom, it’s likely because you aren’t from Asia or into exotic drugs. It’s a very old medicinal that comes from the leaves of a tree native to Southeast Asia. The leaves are made into a tea and have traditionally been used for pain relief.
Perhaps it’s a reflection on how multicultural the U.S. has become that this drug is now showing up in America, and, because it is currently not regulated by the DEA, it’s use is spreading among those looking for a legal high. A video about the drug shows some of the dosage forms and warnings.
A 'Drug of Concern'
The DEA has Kratom listed as a “drug of concern” on its website. The info sheet says that, while it is used as a stimulant at low doses, at higher doses the drug acts as a sedative. It can also induce euphoria and feelings of pleasure.
In an interesting irony, Kratom has been used to help addicts with withdrawal symptoms from other, stronger narcotics. This seems to be possible because the active chemicals in the leaf interfere with opioid receptors without causing as strong an effect. An analogy would be using beer or wine to combat withdrawal from whiskey.
The 'Kratom Craze'
Because it is legal to sell as alternative medicine, Kratom has recently started showing up in shops catering to those looking for “natural” pain relief or who want to try out a new way to get high. One report from Washington state says it is freely available in the area and has become a concern for regulators who only recently battled another legal high – bath salts.
Kratom has also made an appearance in Florida and is available over the Internet. It’s too soon to tell if the “Kratom craze” will take off to the extent that bath salts did or that the drug will be as dangerous.