DEA keeps a close eye on kratom

Published On: Jan 29 2013 10:18:56 PM EST
Updated On: Jan 29 2013 10:40:00 PM EST
MIAMI -

The Drug Enforcement Agency is keeping a close eye on kratom, a type of herbal remedy that can act as a psychostimulant when taken in higher doses.

Ted Inserra, who spends most of his day working in a restaurant, uses kratom as a painkiller.

"My knees, my ankles, my wrist. Aspirin and aspirin all day long," said Inserra. "It just kind of keeps you energized, keeps you focused."

Inserra said the natural remedy works.

"Taken in smaller doses, in regular doses, I find it to be perfectly fine," said Inserra.

Kratom is labeled as an alternative medicine, as a pain killer, as a sedative, and even as a dietary supplement.   The plant comes from Southeast Asia and when  broken down, it can be smoked, swallowed, or sipped.  It's both a sedative and a stimulant depending on the dose.

"There have been cases of patients hallucinating, severe euphoria, and I'm sure patients do come to the emergency department and seek medical attention for this particular drug," said Dr. Randy Katz, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Memorial Regional Hospital in South Florida.

Kratom  has been outlawed in several countries.  It's getting more popular here.

"The way they are packaging these, it's very appealing to young people," explained DEA Special Agent, Mia Ro.

Kratom can be found online, in convenience stores and head shops.  And while it's legal in the United States, the DEA classifies it as a drug of concern.

"I can't stress enough that these are not regulated," said Ro.

Kratom is also used in rehabilitation clinics to treat people addicted to heroin and opium.

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