In the absurd quest to find a ‘safe high,’ here comes kratom. Grown in Southeast Asia, kratom leaf is an opiate-like substance that is popping up in overdose cases around the country. The herb is not currently regulated by the government, making it easily obtainable for anyone with access to Internet markets.
Frank LoVecchio, medical director of the Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center in Phoenix, Arizona told MSNBC, “Every month somebody is trying to get a new ‘safe high.’ (Kratom) is definitely not safe. When we see people who take this, they sometimes get respiratory depression. What’s odd is that some of them get really, really agitated, a little combative, (with) nausea and vomiting.”
Even though the estimated rate of people taking kratom in the United States does not exist yet, there are dozens of emergency-related cases reported to poison control centers in the nation since 2005.
Illegal in many European and Asian countries, kratom is most often obtained from Thailand — a country that has outlawed its use. Not only is the substance illegal, it’s considered the third most abused drug in that culture. The negative effects have been compared to those of heroine withdrawal, and most of the cases seen in emergency rooms are teenagers trying to achieve a “safe” high.
MSNBC reported that the website, Kratom.com, promotes the use of the herb “as a strong and reliable herbal painkiller, to relieve depression and as a social and professional enhancer to intensify communicational skills and induce higher motivation.” The website does caution that kratom use symptoms include loss of libido, delusions, hallucinations, tremors, aggression, constipation, nausea, and listlessness.
One of the doctors quoted by the MSNBC report on kratom, described withdrawal symptoms such as in heroin withdrawal. He spoke on a recent case of kratom overdose in which the patient experienced “severe depression and anxiety and emerging opiate withdrawal symptoms.”
Barbara Carreno, DEA public information officer said: “Things used to get around by word of mouth and it took a long time. Now anyone can find out about anything within a matter of minutes … so there’s a lot of experimenting with exotic things that no one had ever heard of.” If the DEA determines a risk with the Southeast Asia leaf, they will place it on a list of regulated and banned substances. Research is required.
After the report, Kratom.com was down and unavailable. As of the date of this article, kratom is still legal for purchase and use in the United States and present in the form of emergency check ins in hospitals nationwide.