Heroin-Like Kratom Becomes Latest 'Legal' Drug Craze

Heroin-Like Kratom Becomes Latest 'Legal' Drug Craze

By McCarton Ackerman 03/03/14

Sold over the counter as an herbal tea, Kratom can act as a stimulant in small doses and as a sedative in larger ones.

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Drug enforcement officials have raised concern over a new drug that creates heroin-like symptoms, but is being sold over the counter as a tea at head shops. Kratom has been creating a major buzz due to several YouTube videos of users raving over the drug while they’re high on it. Made from the leaves of trees that grow in Southeast Asia, Kratom is being sold in head shops as a pill or powder that can be stirred into beverages. It acts as a stimulant in small doses and a sedative in larger ones. A bag of 30 Kratom pills sold at a head shop typically costs about $30.

"Kratom is what they refer to in the medical community as an opiate with a roof where you can only get so high,” said one user in their YouTube video. But even the promoters of Kratom acknowledge the drug can cause unpleasant side effects including nervousness, aggression, sleeplessness, and tremors. There are also recent reports of Kratom users ending up in emergency rooms with symptoms similar to heroin withdrawal.

Although head shops often sell the drug under the premise that it’s an “all-natural extract” that helps relieve pain and induce sleep, it’s currently not approved for any medical purpose in the U.S.

Kratom is currently on the watch list put out by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Jonathan Fulkerson, deputy chief counsel for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, confirmed that “it is illegal to...sell it as a drug. Kratom is on our radar for the reasons it's on the DEA's radar. It’s a drug of concern.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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