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Legal Does Not Always Mean Safe. Kratom Causing Concern

Smoke shops across the country are offering a new drug that many are calling a legal high. This drug can be ingested in capsule form, or turned into a tea or liquid. It is completely legal in most states as long as the person purchasing it is over the age of eighteen. With a little bit of digging, it was easy to find out information about this new drug and the ways in which it could be dangerous to users who think they are safe.

This new drug is called Kratom, and it is directly related to coffee. It was originally used by Asian natives who took leaves from the Kratom tree and chewed on them. The Kratom tree is an Evergreen tree that is native to Indonesia and southeast Asia, reports LaCretia Prudhomme, the Admissions Director of the Acadiana Addiction Center. In fact, the leaves of the tree are highly psychoactive.

"In lower doses, Kratom acts just like an opioid. It's like a pain pill," says Prudhomme. Some addicts use Kratom in place of illegal opiates such as heroin, preferring the legal high due to how convenient it is to find and how cheap it is. It is extremely easy to buy as it is considered a legal substance in most states. Users feel similar effects as one would from ingesting an opiate, feeling sedative like effects such as what they would get from Xanax or Valium when the drug is taken in large doses.

Unfortunately, the long term risk factors associated with Kratom are unknown because the drug is not monitored by the DEA or the FDA. While it is banned in four different states in the US, and strongly discouraged in some parts of Louisiana, it is still a legal substance. Addiction specialists such as Prudhomme and different law enforcement officials such as Eunice police chief Randy Fontenot have expressed their concerns about the drug and are worried that Kratom is becoming the newest fad.

Prudhomme has found usage of this legal drug is increasing and she is finding more admissions to her Center for this synthetic substance. Louisiana Poison Control has also seen an increasing trend from users, with more calls coming regarding the drug. Fifteen people have called in about Kratom in the last two years, with eleven of them reporting issues with vomiting and nausea, and one more experiencing hallucinations. Fontenot is adamant that these sort of substances (legal weed, bath salts, etc.) are not fit for human consumption and is concerned about the long term effects on users.

Kratom use can come with withdrawals that would necessitate a detox that is vastly similar to detoxification for opiates. Users may not be aware of this risk because it is marketed as safe. Fontenot wants to issue a broad warning to the public about the dangers of using this product.

"I want to put out a warning," he stated. "Do not smoke or eat this sort of stuff. It is banned in the country it was created for a very good reason." Kratom is legal in the majority of states, but it has recently been added to the DEA's list of drugs of concern.


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