Kratom: natural painkiller or dangerous drug?
ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. —
Kratom is a plant-based supplement that some people call a natural painkiller.
Others say it's a dangerous drug.
Both sides agree: Kratom is powerful.
It comes in small capsules or in a powdery substance.
It’s not just easy to get. But it also doesn't show up on a routine drug screen.
A high from Kratom can last anywhere from 5 to 6 hours pending on how much you take.
Ned Abdel owns Sweet Puff Smoke Shoppe and Vapes in Escambia County.
Abdel says Kratom comes in different strains.
"I use to wholesale also the Kratom to the stores," said Abdel.
Right now, Kratom is banned in several states including Alabama. The FDA compares it to an opioid like substance. They are pushing for a nationwide ban.
Addiction professionals like Dustin Perry says more research is needed for doctors to determine if the herbal supplement is safe.
"If it was that good then Publix would carry it, Winn-Dixie would carry it, Walmart would certainly would," Perry explained.
Adele says Kratom works.
He says kratom sales make up 30% of his business.
Elizabeth Carson is one of them.
"For the first two years I lived on pain medicine almost exclusively," Carson said.
Carson says she used pain pills for over 8 years after having neck surgery until she started using Kratom.
Carson searched for a pain alternative. She says she was surprised how well kratom worked for her.
"Although I do get a slight feeling of euphoria, it is very light. I am still able to drive. I am still able to function. I do all of my household jobs. I do all of the things that I need to do it does deal with all of the pain I need to deal with and I live my life just fine," said Carson.
Ryan McGrath says he uses Kratom to get off street drugs.
The 21-year-old says he was born with a connective tissue disorder and has used kratom for two years.
'I could be wrong but from my experience I've had no problems with it or health issues from using it," McGrath said.
The American Kratom Association says 3 to 5 million people use kratom across the U.S.
Last month, the F-D-A recalled some kratom products after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a salmonella outbreak that sickened 132 people in 38 states including Florida.
"I think the danger is that we really don't know what it does. Have a conversation with your doctor, which is hard, it’s a change from what we've doing for a long time," Perry explained.
Businesses that sell Kratom say the move will hurt them and people who use the herb to battle chronic pain.
"It will hurt me when I get pain I won't have any for myself. It does hurt everybody and everybody is going to be affected by it," said Abdel.
The federal ban would make Kratom a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning it would be illegal across the board, even for medicinal use.