Poison control experts warn Utahns about dangers of legal supplement called Kratom

Posted at 9:45 PM, Aug 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-06 15:43:21-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Use of an herbal substance is on the rise in Utah, and experts say it has potential to poison and even kill those who take it.

Kratom is sold in smoke shops as a dietary supplement that you can ingest or drink in a tea form, but one Utah mom said her daughter is now battling an addiction because of the legal herb supplement.

Marketed for energy, pain relief, relaxation and feelings of euphoria, Kratom can be found in pill form or as a powder.

“It is a plant that’s native to Southeast Asia,” explained Barbara Crouch, Executive Director of the Utah Poison Control Center.

It’s a green, earthy-smelling substance that many will mix with water and drink. And some say, it’s ruining lives.

“She told me that she could not stop taking them,” said a Utah mother who wanted to remain anonymous.

The mom said her adult daughter started taking Kratom to feel better, and get a little boost in her day.

“She said she started taking them because she just wasn't feeling good, and just the energy,” the woman said. “It was for the energy.”

A few capsules sprinkled in water, turned into more and more of these buck-a-pill supplements.

“A month ago she came to me and told me that she felt like that this was a real problem in her life,” the mother said.

Her daughter, she explained, began running out of money. She’d been kicked out of her home and was living in a motel. The woman said her daughter tried to quit, but became easily agitated and even attacked her mother at one point.

“The police were called and it turned into a really bad situation,” she recounted.

But the police, the woman said, couldn’t do much because Kratom is legal. In fact, she said the officers told her they hadn’t even heard of it.

But Crouch said Kratom exposure cases are starting to become more common in the state.

She said they received, “as many calls in first six months of this year as we had last year. So I think it is gaining in popularity.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports Kratom cases are also up across the country. According to their statistics, calls to poison centers jumped tenfold between 2010 and 2015.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reported six states have now banned Kratom. Crouch said if abused, Kratom can be fatal to ingest.

“There have been reports of seizures, there have been reports of psychosis, and there actually have been deaths reported,” she said, adding that the deaths were elsewhere in the United States and not necessarily in Utah.

The substance is getting the attention of federal agencies.

“The DEA and the FDA are looking very closely at this,” Crouch said. “The CDC has looked closely at this.”

For the mom, she said her daughter continues to spiral and she hopes to spread awareness so others don’t end up in the same boat.

She also said she hopes police departments will become more aware of the substance, and its possible effects on those who take it.