Drug agency monitors kratom use in Oklahoma


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TULSA, Okla. —

It’s been used to relieve pain for centuries in Southeast Asia and now what’s called kratom is becoming popular, not just in the U.S., but also in Northeast Oklahoma.
Those who used kratom say it helps people with opiate addiction, but the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is concerned that kratom could be addictive.
Tulsa resident Shannon Keane uses kratom and has been for the last few months.
“I have constant pain in my hips and in my knees every day,” Keane explained.
Keane survived a terrible car accident in 2007 and came close to dying. Doctors tried prescribing him painkillers during his recovery, but Keane always refused. He never took any painkillers.
“I tried avoiding painkillers as much as I could because I grew up watching them ruin people’s lives,” he said. “I’ve always had a fear of that addiction because I know it can be a demon for some people.”
He searched online for alternatives to painkillers and found kratom. It is made from the leaves of a tropical tree in the coffee family from Southeast Asia. Now it’s being imported into the United States.
“It’s the only thing that has truly taken the pain away,” Keane explained. “It’s strictly for my pain and that’s it. Sometimes I get some energy from it.”
Kratom is on the radar for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. Mark Woodward with OBN says kratom is not a major problem in Oklahoma yet. There have been no deaths or overdoses tied to kratom in the state, but they have received phone calls from about half a dozen concerned parents.
“I can tell you that we’ve had some phone calls from parents who say their child was high on it or acting in a concerning way after taking the product,” Woodward said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration put kratom on a list of “Drugs or Chemicals of Concern”. Earlier in 2014, OBN also had it on a list of substances to ban in Oklahoma. The agency is concerned that kratom can be abused.

“We have no doubt that some people believe in the product, but we also have no doubt that there are people who are going to exploit [kratom] because it makes them feel good—especially among kids,” Woodward explained.
But eventually, kratom was taken off of the bill this year.
“It’s to give us time to research and to see if there is a balance between it being a legitimate product, if that's what it is, versus the potential for abuse,” Woodward said.
Lejuan Williams of Tulsa lobbied to get kratom off of that list. He is the president of Kratom Users, a company he started this year. He buys kratom in bulk from Asia and sells it in Tulsa. He has made it a business.
“The demand is definitely up and as more people find out about kratom, business is picking up even more,” Williams said.
Williams started taking kratom to help him kick his alcohol addiction and many of his clients use kratom to get off heroin and painkillers. He believes kratom could be the solution to Oklahoma’s opiate abuse problem.
According to a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma is at the top of a list of states with a serious prescription drug problem.

In Oklahoma, 128 prescriptions are written per every100 people and that puts the state among the top prescribers.
OBN believes that, as of now, there is no evidence or research to prove kratom could help opiate addicts. Williams agrees that there needs to be more research, but he doesn’t think banning kratom in the meantime is the answer.

“If you illegalize kratom, the other direction isn’t just being able to be clear and stay free of drugs and alcohol, some people are going to go back to the drugs and alcohol,” Williams said.
Louisiana, Indiana, and Tennessee have banned the alkaloids found in kratom. States like Massachusetts, Iowa and Illinois have introduced legislation to ban kratom or restrict sale to kids.
Williams says he doesn’t sell kratom to anyone under 18 years old because they are more likely to mix it with other drugs or try and find ways to abuse it.
“I think kids are what are giving kratom a bad name,” he explained. “They’re the thrill seekers. They are young.”
Kratom is relatively easy to find. There are several places online that sell kratom and they can also be found at local head shops.
OBN is concerned about how addictive kratom is and what the long-term effects might be. Williams says it’s addictive on the same level as coffee. Keane says he’s gone a month without it before and felt no withdrawal effects.
Plus, he believes kratom is hard to abuse. He says he feels nauseous if he has too much kratom.
“It’s horrible and it doesn't taste good,” he said. “For something recreational, you would have to be out of your mind or very desperate.”
Doctors told FOX23 that there isn’t much research on kratom at this time to determine if it is dangerous or addictive.
Meanwhile, OBN told FOX23 that their agency plans to take the next few months to monitor reports from the Oklahoma Poison Control Center, local law enforcement agencies and medical examiner offices to track kratom activity in the state.
They also plan on researching kratom more before deciding whether or not to put it back on the list of substances to ban or to possibly restrict how or where it’s sold.

source: http://www.fox23.com/news/news/local/drug-agency-monitors-kratom-use-oklahoma/ngftf/