L.A. Feds Seize Exotic New Drug

Kratom is a new-to-us drug from Southeast Asia.
Kratom is a new-to-us drug from Southeast Asia.

In the United States, wherever there are people putting foreign substances in their own sovereign bodies as part of humanity's eternal quest to get high, the federal government will not be far behind.

This week, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles announced it had seized more than 100 cases of health products containing the unapproved drug Kratom. Authorities say the haul is worth $150,000.

"Kratom has been indicated to have both narcotic and stimulant-like effects, and withdrawal symptoms may include hostility, aggression, excessive tearing, aching of muscles and bones and jerky limb movements," federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Of course, our unfamiliarity with the botanical substance from Southeast Asia prompted us to quickly dial up Google in a search for information on where to get some. A drug is born.

The U.S. Attorney pointed the way, noting that the Kratom it seized with the help of the California Department of Public Health was the property of Kratom Therapy in Grover Beach, which sells its products online (bookmark!).

The firm, which also does business as Nature Therapeutics LLC, is the subject of a civil forfeiture complaint filed in U.S. District Court in L.A., the U.S. Attorney's Office said. It alleges that "the seized Kratom products are unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act."

Prosecutors say the company is peddling its Kratom products as a "cure, mitigation or treatment of various diseases," according to the office.

The FDA says it has seen an increase in imported Kratom, which is harvested in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Kratom, also known as Mitragyna speciosa, is processed from leaves and often packaged as a dietary supplement, the administration says.

"Consumption of Kratom can lead to a number of health impacts, including respiratory depression, nervousness, agitation, aggression, sleeplessness, hallucinations, delusions, tremors, loss of libido, constipation, skin hyperpigmentation, nausea, vomiting and severe withdrawal signs and symptoms," the FDA stated in an alert last week.

Sounds horrible — like something you'd get from a legit pharmacy. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control says it's known in other parts of the world as an "opioid substitute" — you know, as something other than the leading — and mostly legal — cause of the nation's prescription-overdose epidemic.

The thing here is that while it's an unapproved drug, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be busted for having it in your pocket (results may vary, so consult your local attorney). The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says, "Kratom is not scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act." In other words, it's not a federal outlaw like heroin or even marijuana. Not yet, anyway.

But the DEA also says there's no legitimate medical use for the drug.

Kratom aficionados in England have started a petition to keep the drug legal there.

According to the online campaign, the drug is "a kind and gentle herb of the coffee family. ... Irresponsible vendors, out to make some quick cash, have been presenting it as though it's a powerful drug or 'legal high,' and the risk is that lawmakers will believe this view — whilst overlooking the many benefits that Kratom has to people with chronic pain, depression and more."

The federal government warns you to just say no — which is the best possible publicity for a new drug.

"Kratom is a drug that has very serious health effects on users,” said the U.S. Attorney in L.A., Eileen Decker. "We will continue to partner with the FDA to protect the public from the distribution of unapproved and mislabeled substances like Kratom."


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