LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It’s a drug that is raising concerns. Kratom can be found online, in smoke shops, and even at some local gas stations.
"I dose one time in the morning at 10 am and another time at 9 pm," said one user.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says it’s a tropical tree originating from Southeast Asia. Its leaves have mind-altering effects, and it’s sold around the world.
“It is three forms, we have the powder, the capsules and then the extract,” Kratom user and the Blaze Smoke Shop employee Cece Mele said.
It is marketed for anxiety relief, as an energy supplement, even pain reliever.
“Man, tons of people for tons of different reasons,” Mele said. “We have a lot of plant workers and construction workers.”
The 22-year-old has been using the drug since she was 16 for her scoliosis. However, the U.S Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to use it.
“You know, if they are predisposed to be addicted, then they might come in here, they might end up at Lake Charles Behavioral Health Center,” addiction counselor DeAnna Turner said.
Kratom affects the same brain receptors as an opioid would, according to the FDA, which says it’s properties quote: “expose users to the risk of addiction, abuse and dependence.”
“He was using so much and he had lost everything and this was only on Kratom,” Turner said.
For those already struggling with addiction, Turner says, Kratom could be the new gateway drug.
“It’s pretty dangerous because some of them have actually gotten real strung out on it and some of them have gone back to their drug of choice,” Turner said.
Those at the smoke shop insist that in small doses, the drug is harmless.
“Some people do develop a tolerance or already have a tolerance and they need to take more but it all depends on you honestly,” Mele said.
The FDA has taken action against the drug multiple times since 2014, including raiding multiple facilities accused of using Kratom in dietary supplements.