Expert warns of Kratom dangers

Warning about plant-based painkiller Kratom

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- A warning for parents about a drug called Kratom. It's an over-the-counter drug that can give users a morphine-like high.

Kratom, which is legal in most states including Virginia and North Carolina, has been around for years as a dietary supplement and is billed as a way to treat pain or increase alertness and physical energy.

The dynamic effects surprised Gayle Scott, an assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

"Kratom is the only drug that I can think of that has two very different pharmacological effects depending on dose," said Scott.

Kratom, sold in powder or capsule form, "produces stimulant effects with users reporting increased alertness, physical energy, talkativeness and social behavior," when taken in low doses, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

"Very high doses alone theoretically, it could have an affect like morphine," advises Scott , who's been a pharmacist for nearly 38 years. "If used chronically, it is addictive. You can have withdrawal symptoms just like you would if you were withdrawing from heroin."

Since Kratom is sold at head shops across Hampton Roads, 13News Now went into one store and bought a 30-gram package for $20. To get those feelings of euphoria, people have to use more than 15 grams.

The danger became real for one family. In May 2015, John Eden, a Navy intelligence student in the Atlanta area, committed suicide. In the note he left behind, the 22-year-old cited drug addiction. Bags of Kratom were found in his apartment.

"I really believe in my heart he did not know what he was doing. He thought this stuff was safe and it just spiraled out of control," said his father.

The Drug Enforcement Agency concludes there is "no legitimate medical use for Kratom" and has it on the list of "Drugs and Chemicals of Concern."

The Food and Drug Administration also has serious concerns about Kratom.

"I'm concerned that people, particularly college-age kids and even minors, are using it and may not use good sense with it," Scott added.

Only two states make it illegal to possess Kratom -- Tennessee and Indiana.

Kratom Drug Fact Sheet


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