Illegal drug or pain reliever? DEA cracks down on Kratom

A group of protesters will gather outside of the Drug Enforcement Agency office in Tampa to show their support of the drug Kratom, which may given a Schedule I classification. The DEA says the substance is addictive.

Illegal drug or substance for chronic pain relief?

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency is cracking down on a substance called Kratom, and could reclassify it as an illegal substance beginning September 30.

Tuesday, more than 100,000 people are calling on President Barack Obama to intervene after the DEA announced they would make Kratom considered as dangerous and illegal as LSD and heroine.

At noon, a group of Tampa protesters plan to gather outside the DEA’s office in Tampa at 4950 W Kennedy Boulevard to fight to convince the DEA to reverse their decision.  

People in Tampa Bay who use Kratom are fighting to keep it on store shelves and available online, saying it is the only thing that helps their chronic pain, PTSD and other medical issues.

You can find Kratom in capsules or powder or even crushed up in tea. The substance is native to Southeast Asia and has been around for years.

Recently the drug has also been found in brightly colored packets inside gas stations and other convenience stores.

While some who use Kratom, including one father, say it is the only substance that has helped their pain, the DEA says it doesn't have a single proven medical benefit.

Tommy Marsh uses it for severe back pain due to his osteoporosis and sciatica. He says Kratom is the only thing that makes him feel well enough to play with his daughter, "My wife would tell her your daddy is hurting today and he cannot play, but in the last 3 years it hasn't really come up. It doesn’t completely take away my pain but it absolutely helps," he explained.

Alfred Aleguas from the Tampa Poison Control Office says its use hasn’t been proven, "I think the DEA has recognized the abuse potential and it doesn’t really have any approved medical or therapeutic use at this point."

The DEA says Kratom is highly addictive and can get into the wrong hands. They claim it can even cause seizures and psychological breakdowns and has been linked to 14 deaths in the U.S. and 30 worldwide. Over the last 5 years, poison control centers took nearly 700 calls Kratom.

Marsh says Kratom has only recently become a focus of the DEA.

If the DEA's decision holds up, anyone caught with Kratom beginning October 1 could face felony charges.

Organizers of Tuesday’s protest at the DEA’S Tampa office say they will make their voices heard  from 12-3 p.m. 

(© 2016 WTSP)


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