Harmful drug or helpful pain reliever? Feds crack down on Kratom

- Kratom is a substance that has been for sale without a prescription in smoke shops and all over the Internet that some people say is good for pain. It comes from a coffee-like plant in Southeast Asia.

Anna DiLustro was 30 when she was diagnosed with MS.

Now, 36-years-old, she uses Kratom for her pain.

She says she can use it once a day in tea form and that it "would last well into the next day."

"So I, essentially, could take it just once a day and be comfortable and almost forget that I have this fibromyalgia pain and this MS pain and just chronic discomfort," DiLustro said.

But federal officials say there are those who abuse Kratom because it has an opioid-like effect and because of that, the DEA wants it to be a controlled substance that you can’t just buy online or in a smoke shop.

According to the DEA, “Law enforcement nationwide has seized more Kratom in the first half of 2016 than any previous year and easily accounts for millions of dosages intended for the recreational market.”

The agency says from 2014 to 2016 over 55,000 kilograms of Kratom were encountered by law enforcement at various US Ports. Another 57,000-plus  were offered for import, but are awaiting an FDA admissibility decision. All of which, they say, is enough to make 12 million doses of Kratom.

Family practitioner Dr. Michael Lewis says this is a substance that "deserves attention."

He admits he's little ambivalent about regulating Kratom. He doesn’t think this is about big pharmaceutical companies wanting control, but about saving lives and preventing addiction.

Says the practitioner from the Willow Healing Center in Woodland Hills, "I think we need to open our eyes and do a little more research about it. Jumping to a category-one right off the top I don’t know if that’s the right categorization of it, but it definitely deserves some attention.”

DiLustro, though, doesn’t like the federal government stepping in and making it a controlled prescription drug because, as she puts it, "this is truly natural way with not a lot of downsides.”

Despite that, the DEA says downsides have and can include seizures, hallucinations and death.

The DEA says there were 15 deaths from 2014 to 2016 because of Kratom.

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