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Kratom leaf is a legal high here, but for how long?


Kratom is a tree leaf and it’s in the same family as coffee trees. One customer says it helps her control her anxiety and depression. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

SEATTLE — Federal agents carried out raids in more than 24 states on Wednesday. Agents were after the makers and sellers of drugs that go by names like K-2, Spice, and bath salts.

The products are meant to mimic the effects of better-known drugs like marijuana and methadone but can be dangerous.

DEA officials said using synthetic drugs is like playing Russian roulette because the ingredients and dosages vary so much from package to package.

Synthetic drugs have been banned in Washington state since 2010, but another substance is still widely available, legally, and over the counter.

It’s called kratom and it’s been used in Asian countries for decades. The DEA and some medical professionals worry it could be dangerous and addictive.

Kratom is a tree leaf and it’s in the same family as coffee trees, but the DEA says there is no legitimate medical use for kratom. In Britain, kratom is sometimes called herbal speedball.

“I just bought 100 grams,” said Lisa Jeanneret, who uses kratom. “It’s just a powder form and I mix it in water.”

Jeanneret buys her kratom from a Capitol Hill smoke shop. She says it’s the only thing controlling her anxiety and depression.

“I’m on every pharmaceutical drug known to man; that’s not working for me,” Jeanneret said. “When I discovered this, it’s taken almost all of my symptoms away.”

Jeanneret says most people have never heard of kratom , but it’s already on the radar at the Washington Poison Center. A half-dozen people call in each year worried they’ve overdosed on kratom.

“I think it’s prone to abuse and I think if you take too much, it can be very harmful,” said toxicologist Thomas Martin.

The DEA said kratom is not only addictive, but it’s also a tough habit to break. The agency cites several cases of kratom psychosis in Thailand that include hallucinations, delusions and confusion among addicts.

At low doses the drug acts like a stimulant – but at higher doses it acts like a sedative.

“It has both opioid-like properties and stimulant-like properties,” said Martin. “Some people believe you can use it to help withdrawal from opioid addiction more safely.”

Unlike bath salts and synthetic pot, kratom so far is not listed as a controlled substance. But Martin believes it should be banned.

“If a head shop or a truck stop knows that a substance has been scheduled and it’s illegal to sell it, that is a significant deterrent for making the drug available. I think that’s one legitimate approach,” said Martin.

Jeanneret is hopeful the government will leave kratom as is, and keep it readily available.

“Let’s hope it keeps going and that they don’t do anything about it because it’s saving my life right now,” Jeanneret said.

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  • Zander

    I am sorry but the DEA is citing outdated information. The psychosis they speak of is from the 1940's and there was a political movement against kratom at the the time because kratom was impacting opium sales because it was seen as a safer alternative by.

    Yes it may have addictive properties but so does coffee, and caffeine withdrawal is considered a mental disorder in the DSM-V but I doubt anyone will be regulating coffee any time soon.

    I have taken kratom for 2 years to help with my arthritis and I have gotten my quality of life back. I stop kratom for periods of time with little or no issue. I think quitting coffee is way more difficult.

    Research studies have also showed little no toxicity in animal studies.

    There are several research papers posted on the botanical legal defense website
    There are also numerous studies citing medicinal value to this plant as well as providing an alternative for those dealing with chemical dependency. Kratom could save countless lives for those dealing with addictions.

    I also have a friend who uses kratom to help her deal with symptoms from MS.

    If this plant is taken away you will be hurting thousands of people who rely on it for medicinal value and robbing them of their quality of life

  • John

    Kratom is a very valuable plant/herb that deserves not only legal status but some serious research. Simply banning everything in a reactionary fashion is not only stupid but dangerous. This plant has some amazing medical benefits potential. Do we really need to panic and overreact over EVERYTHING these days without even a second thought? The media sensationalizes everything for ratings and I can attest from experience that not only is Kratom safe, it is very beneficial in a lot of areas and not just to feel good. The woman in the video is one of thousands who has found this herb and found it to be helpful compared to all the pharmaceutical crap out there which is debate ably hurting people even worse. There is a reason marijuana was legalized and I'm willing to bet that Kratom may just be even more beneficial and safe than MJ. Do your own research folks and do not simply buy into a 2 minute news clip on something that could very well be another natural blessing having been found. Thailand made it illegal for obvious "political" reasons but now is moving to make the plant legal again. As far as anti-depression goes, I've gotten more benefits from this plant than I ever have from the pharmaceutical drugs out there and with little to no side effects. As far as addictions go, this herb is simply too mild to be abused… If you take too much, it is the equivalent of having too much caffeine… Amazing plant Kratom is and I'm shocked that very little serious research has been done to utilize the benefits more today.

    • John

      I should add that the "high" that is referred to is no where near the highs of opiates nor does it feel the same. Taking more and more Kratom WILL NOT get you feeling any higher… hence the reason this plant is not addictive… potentially habit forming in the same way caffeine is perhaps but nowhere near the same as hard street drugs. Key word is mild. with pain killing abilities, energy giving anti-depressive properties. I am 99% sure that if proper research is done, the resulting data will match very closely to what I've just described but they will also get the added bonus of more details on this.

      • John

        I also want to add that the DEA is clearly LYING here. As they have for decades. How are government continues to function with this much corruption is beyond me. They are literally lying here 100% I cannot even believe I'm reading it. But there it is in black and white. Psychosis! LOL OMG… wow! They might as well just say, "taking Kratom will turn you into tinkerbell and banish you to neverland" makes me sad just reading their BS. I cannot believe they get paid with my tax money to make things up like this!

  • HCPS

    "Makers and sellers of drugs that go by names like K-2, Spice, and bath salts….The products are meant to mimic the effects of better-known drugs like marijuana and methadone but can be dangerous."

    Do you even know what methadone is? It is a synthetic opioid medication used in the treatment of addiction, and according to to the CDC and other nationally accredited agencies, the most effective treatment for opiate (i.e heroin, morphine, Oxycontin and other narcotic opiate/opioid painkillers) addiction available today. K-2, spice, and bath salts have NO relation or similar effects at all to methadone. There is little recreational value in methadone use and it is not a highly sought after recreational drug.

    This bit of your report is highly inaccurate, misleading, and frankly damaging to methadone treatment providers and patients, as well as their friends, families, and the communities these folks live in. It contributes to harmful assumptions and stereotypes made about people recieving this treatment or providing it. I have no idea why methadone (a legal, safe, life-changing/life-saving medication) is even mentioned in reference to being similar to or mimicking the effects of unregulated, illicit, dangerous, designer amphetamines a.k.a 'bathsalts'.

    It is highly irresponsible reporting and journalism, and quite honestly shows a huge display of ignorance on your part and makes me call into question the rest of this article and anything else Q13 puts out! I apologize if I seem a bit harsh, but the reference to methadone should be removed completely from this piece because it just down right wrong and has nothing to do with synthetic/designer recreational amphetamines/cannabis/hallucinogens OR K-2, spice, bath salts, or kratom!

    A healthcare professional employed at a methadone treatment clinic

  • The World is Ending

    The Feds outlaw substances that have been legal for years that are later found to be harmful… So if this is the case and common practice, why are cigarets still legal?

  • Slam1263

    Are you 18?

    Do you want to put things into your body?

    Knock your selves out. It's called personal responsibility. Don't create problems in society, and you shouldn't get hassled.

    • Zander

      There are no problems with this, only made up ones. Kratom is not new, it has been around for thousands of years but because it is now being sold in headshops they are trying to make it into something that it is not. 12 people call poison control about kratom — how many people call a year for ibuprofen?

  • HCPS

    Also, I'd like to add that I agree COMPLETELY with the other posters here as far as the research showing kratom NOT to be the highly dangerous, addictive drug the media often makes it out to be. This report seems to be the same flavor of fear-mongering, 'save-the-children', inaccurate hysteria as per usual for our news media. As a personal anecdote of mine, I have dealt extensively with opiate addicts who have used kratom to overcome their withdrawals and therefore overcome their addiction and begin a path to recovery. Thank you to the other posters here for putting in their viewpoints and combating misinformation and ignorance!

  • A.M.

    Wow, what total rubbish! Have been taking kratom for insomnia & pain (1 herniated disc & 1 completely missing disc) I have NEVER had any type of “High” while taking kratom, nor have I had any type of sedating effect. I feel the same just with less pain. Will gladly email the jackass whom wrote this fabricated crap! Wake up people. The drug companies are losing out big time. Why? A plant that can aid MANY ailments & not cause so much havoc in our lives (opiate addicted consumers) I lived a life addicted to what the doctors pushed down my throat for years, not anymore!

  • Marbledecker

    The FDA is acting with the interest of big pharma in mind, plain and simple. They are intimidated by the medicinal value of Kratom and it's relatively low cost when compared to conventional treatments for pain and addiction. They are as transparent as cellophane.

    There is simply no proof that it is more harmful than alcohol or tobacco. End of story. So why then the FDA action? Just follow the trail of cash…

  • Mike

    It is a shame that you give information leaning toward the idea of making it a fact, when in reality there are more people that benefit from Kratom for numerous simple problems/issues that will not go back to pharmaceuticals. No one will hear from the thousands that take Kratom on a daily basis and their testimonies because of your incorrect biased propaganda. But lucky for some people they will hear and switch to one natural health herb, rather then 3 or more toxic harmful chemical mixtures. You guys can only make up so many things (NEVER SHOWING ANY CREDITABLE SOURCES), and repeat each others ("News") spew using different words before hear the truth.

    It is hard to believe that "you's" do any research to actually give information worth calling news that is honest, helpful, and accurate.

  • Janice

    I agree with all of the comments to this article. Kratom helped to the point that I was able to quit seeing my pain management doctor. I have been using Kratom for over 2 years now, and omg! I am still alive and well. Maybe instead of attacking a truly beneficial plant that has helped millions of people, you should focus your writing on an actual dangerous legal drug called alcohol. It has no benefits and has killed more people than any other drug. Why is it still legal? Oh yeah, because it is socially except able in our society even though it ruined so many lives. This article is so ridiculous. Next time start doing some legit research before you start writing about something you obviously know nothing about. No one wants to read inaccurate information.

  • Ryan Mitchell

    Kratom has got such bad press but it’s been around for over 1000 years and even know it’s been on the watch list for a decade it’s still legal. Besides the fact that it helps tens of thousands of people who were addicted to pain medicine or can’t get help somewhere the news continues to blow up the story. Next time won’t you do some real research and actually look at other news stories that report on Kratom. Every time a news organization reports on Kratom it’s all opinions not hard facts and every time a user comments they’re pissed if the new station. How did you think this story was going to go you think the public was going to stand by what you post a bunch of lies

  • OWM

    The simple fact that there has NEVER been a recorded death due to 'kratom' overdose should at least give credence to understanding it is a safe and utilizable medicinal plant. I tire of seeing reasonable and safe alternatives to western medicine being demonized with no foundation while PROVEN detrimental pharmaceutical products are so widely acceptable. PATHETIC journalism is all these stories add up to and sadly people will believe what they are told without looking for themselves.
    I pray in this time of technology folks will atleast read some of the comments below this 'yellow' WEAK reporting and investigation and see for themselves what people who actually know think!

  • Shine

    more and more I am realizing that the news is nothing more than gossip spread from one reporter to the next. They rehash the same story over and over again through different stations without any real research. It's lazy. Where are the brave news reporters of the world who tell the truth and do the work to find the truth? This article barring the interview with the girl who takes kratom for anxiety is full of untruth and misrepresentation.

    The media is nothing more than a game of telephone and gossip.

  • Shine

    Also the only thing that is controversial here is the fact that you put kratom in the same category as synthetics. Why not substitute yerbe mate or ginsing or valerian root or coffee in place of the word kratom. Then you will understand how ridiculous this news story really is. Kratom is an plant .. NOT a synthetic anything. We just made Marijuana legal why start another witch hunt on an obviously medicinal plant

  • Jason

    This poster is a joke. The FDA is just a bunch greedy money hungry idiots. Kratom helped me get off highly addictive pain killers for my back..

  • Will

    Kratom does not get you high! Do research! Listen to testimonials! Find out yourself what Kratom could do for you! Stop spreading lies! It’stills legally available in Seattle Washington. Meanwhile Marijuana is too wtf! I use Kratom and nothing else! Mj is more potent then Kratom! You need to see for yourself!

  • Lisa

    I think people are just writing these kinds of article's to get noticed or something. If they did the research they would get a lot more respect for their opinions. I have been using Kratom for over a year now for pain and it has helped with my blood pressure and anxiety as well. Why wouldn't people want to use something that helps with what ails them and more? There is no reason. It is not a high you get from Kratom. I do get peace of mind. Something I would not have otherwise. I would be on pain meds and probably sitting on my rear end getting fat. I wish people would just do the home work and write on that. Or just back off and leave it alone, there are many other things out there that are obviously dangerous and people could use some education on those. People putting lies about legal highs and how to obtain it is getting the attention of our teens and people with real drug problems looking for anything to use and that is where the problems lies. If your going to write at least write the truth! This herb does not get you high. For those that are buying it for that reason are being sadly awakened. Unless they are mixing it with other drugs and that is dangerous! So is everything else. You don't mix pain med's with alcohol or even certain foods because it can be deadly. Other meds and food's can be deadly. As adults we are supposed to be responsible and have a choice as to what we put into our body's. Regulate the age limits. I don't think you will find one person that would argue with that. And as adults it is one of our job's to teach our kid's to make good choice's. I could write on this all day but I won't. Again, just do your own research! Then give us something real to read.

  • B S

    Mitragyna Speciosa is in no way synthetic. Period. People in the media like this are trying to get the masses and people who are unfamiliar with this plant to think that its like "bath salts, k2 and spice" and I have to just sit here and watch it happen? They know what theyre doing, and they know its wrong.

  • Troy clay Birdsell

    You do not get high on kratom it helps a lot of people just as other supplements on the shelved at Wal-Mart do. Their Is no high either if you take too much it is the same as drinking coffee an d just makes you nautious,and that is the reason it is not able to be abused such as these other synthetic drugs your speaking of. Kratom is from the rubicae family of tree. The same as coffee. Ask america,look at the reviews of the people who use it just like they would coffee,Tylenol or any other o.t.c that helps them in their life.

  • Joe

    This article is a complete fabrication that seems to be influenced by Big Pharma. Outlaw a plant that has many more benefits and little to no negatives save for lethargy for a few days after discontinuing use. Similar to a heavy coffee user by the way. I think the Feds should leave it up to the States anyway. After all we are supposed to be a Republic. Some States lean heavily to helping chronic pain patients and I agree. I would like to see these patients whom are being treated for legitimate pain, to get carefully monitored with doses as well as being the prescribing Doctors responsibility to wean these patients off the medications as humanely as possible. Look, we do this for animals who are suffering in pain, why not for people?

  • Trhlmn

    Granted there are a few inaccuracies on this report but also many inaccuracies of the posters. Kratom can be beneficial to aiding in pain and anxiety. But to the ones who say it doesn’t get you high and isn’t addictive are complete morons. I speak from experience. This herb is similar to opiate pain killers in which it effects the brain in the same way. You will get high and if taken long enough you will get addicted. It’s a great herb but please use caution.

  • Michelle

    Thailand has been studying Kratom since the 1940’s. The Thailand government has proven Kratom has health benefits and has never killed anyone. Thailand was the first to make Kratom illegal and has now seen the error of it’s ways and it working to reverse that. People all over the world are dying from opiates, which kratom can help people stop taking. I have fibromyalgia among other medical issues. Studies of how many people commit suicide because of Fibromyalgia pain is shocking. I was in a pain management center for three years being poured full of opiates. Nothing helped. I finally decided my life was over. I gave up all hope of truly living ever again. I had to watch my children see mommy in pain. Unable to walk. My kids where not getting to be kids because they had to take care of mommy. I even lost my job because I couldn’t move enough to do the tasks required. Kratom is the only thing that has given me hope. For the first time in 5 years I feel like I can live again. My kids are kids again. I can walk! If Kratom is found to be illegal I will buy as many pounds of it as I can afford before the government takes it away. This is coming from someone who is completely against even pot being made legal. Kratom has never made me high, stoned, even sedated. Like anything yes it can be abused. We sell cigarettes and alcohol which we know does cause death! Once my supply is gone, provided kratom becomes illegal I will leave the US. If it is banned it has nothing to do with what Kratom can or can’t do. It will be about money. When I have heard people say that before I have always rolled my eyes. However if the US can not grow it then how can they tax it? The US can tax opiates and methadone. They can also tax all the drug rehab centers and the companies that make commercials for opiates. Candy can lead to obesity and diabetes which can cause death. Should we ban it too?