The herbal supplement, Kratom is being used to treat pain and anxiety among other things. The supplement is popular, but the FDA and some doctors are sounding the alarm about potential dangers, including possible addiction.
The supplement is actually banned in a number of states. Here in Ohio, that is not the case. Shop owners and users tout the benefits, however doctors aren't so sure it's safe.
For the past year and a half, Christian Devere has owned and operated Miracle Kratom in west Columbus. 64-different strains of the herbal supplement are available at the shop.
"The differences are more pronounced from vein color to vein color," Devere told ABC6.
Kratom comes from a tropical tree native to southeast Asia. It's typically sold in a powder, pill or tea form.
"Kratom is only orally activated. You cannot smoke it, you cannot snort it.. It's only activated in your stomach, so you can either make a tea out of it or mix it with a drink or protein shake and take it that way," said Devere.
The popularity of the product continues to grow. Devere himself first started using Kratom to wean off an opioid addiction.
"I would say half the folks are in the same situation I found myself in. They're recovering addicts, the other half are your mom your grandma, just looking to alleviate pain issues," said Devere.
Monica Omari, like large number of people take the supplement for pain management. Following several surgeries, she's dealt with years of ankle and back pain. Now though, she told ABC6 she's pain free.
"I see it as very affective. I can work out again. I don't feel sluggish," said Omari.
However, a number of doctors question the safety of Kratom. The FDA is warning against it's use. Medical experts indicate that in some instances it's being used as a substitute for prescription opioids. The DEA has highlighted Kratom as a drug of concern. The agency reported cases of psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations. Kratom is illegal in Washington D.C. and six states, including Indiana.
Dr. Matthew Kunar, with OhioHealth told ABC6 that in some cases, users have actually become addicted. The major issue according to Dr. Kunar is the lack of research on Kratom.
"Anything that is not regulated by the FDA I'd be wary of taking it and putting it in my body. I know that I would advise my patients not to take it., but I can't speak for every physician out there," said Dr. Kunar.
Advocates like Devere point to the people who've been helped by using Kratom.
"I come from the point of view that GNC sells hundreds of supplements that are not FDA approved and Kratom is no different from those supplements. It's no more harmful or less harmful and it actually works," Devere told ABC6.
Devere has no issue with more oversight on the industry, but he wants to see it readily available for those who need it.
"I would love to see the FDA do a fair study on Kratom and I don't think that's happened yet. I think if they did do that, Kratom would be more mainstream and accessible to people. I'd love to see that," said Devere.
The Drug Enforcement Agency is warning that Kratom can be addictive. However, steps have not been taken just yet to possibly ban the use of this product across the country. There has been a big push in the public to keep this supplement legal.
For more information on Kratom, click these websites.