DEA to add kratom to same list as heroin - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

DEA to add kratom to same list as heroin

(Source: WBTV/File) (Source: WBTV/File)

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has said it wants to place a drug called kratom into the same category as heroin. Some people say they take the drug to solve health issues like PTSD and headaches. The DEA said it is a safety concern.

The DEA has had Kratom on its list of drugs and chemicals of concern for several years. It’s illegal to import and, they said, law enforcement nationwide has seized more kratom in the first half of 2016 than any previous year. They said kratom has a high potential for abuse, and there is no accepted medical use for it.

“Try Kratom” signs have popped up in the Charlotte area and there was no legal restriction on it. It comes from a leaf, it can be grounded into a powder, taken as a pill or sipped like a tea. 

A tea drinker explained what it feels like to drink it.

“It’s a happy feeling. It’s kind of a happy euphoria, a pick-me-up,” he said.

But doctors are concerned about the safety of kratom. 

Dr. Marcus Plescia, the Mecklenburg County Health Director, explained what people who work on substance abuse for the county know about the drug.

“Apparently, one of its increasing uses is people who are using drugs like heroin, will use this as a way to get off of the heroin - it has a similar effect,” Plescia said.

Thursday the DEA announced it intends to place the active materials in the kratom plant into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in order to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety. Heroin is in the same category.

“That’s why the DEA has scheduled it as a Scheduled One drug. Schedule One drugs are considered to be very dangerous, very high likelihood for addiction and no medical value,” Plescia said.

But Imperial Kratom, who put up signs selling the drug, said it will fight it. Imperial Kratom, which is based in Matthews, sells kratom online and to stores. 

The owner explained by phone her customers are very concerned. She said the DEA’s categorization is ridiculous, and that kratom should be in the same category as coffee as it comes from an herb.

“Just because something comes from a natural plant doesn’t always mean that’s it’s safe. I think that’s what we’re learning with this now,” Plescia said.

DEA reports it is aware of 15 kratom-related deaths between 2014 and 2016. A spokesperson with the DEA said by putting kratom in this category they can protect the public and take three years to study it more closely.

Imperial Kratom is not considered a drug trafficker yet. It could take a month before kratom is put in the Schedule One list. 

Once it is, it will be illegal to sell, distribute or possess the drug.

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