The Food and Drug Administration has added a new member to the opioid family and it is one that you can easily buy over the counter across Northeast Ohio.
“Kratom” comes from the leaf of an Asian plant and has been used for years as a mild stimulant.
In large doses, however, it can act as a sedative. The government reports 44 cases where it killed people who were otherwise healthy.
The first time Channel 3 News reported on kratom, it came from a Tom Meyer investigation nearly four years ago when it was on the DEA’s watch list of drugs and chemicals of concern.
“The effects of it, I mean it’s similar to heroin, it’s similar to cocaine,” said Craig Apple, a sheriff in upstate New York. “Those are obviously scheduled controlled substances.”
Online testimonials promote it as an herbal pain killer with claims it can help kick opioid habits.
Banned in five states, the DEA is considering making it a schedule 1 drug, the same as heroin.
"People have no idea how to measure it. They have no idea what they're ingesting," said John McDonald, a pharmacist. "They're mixing it in alcohol because it has a bitter taste. Mixing kratom with alcohol is like a terrible prescription--it's a prescription for disaster."
Channel 3 News made inquiries across Cuyahoga County and found several stores selling it, even though they were not always putting it on display.
A WKYC intern purchased kratom for $28.00 without an ID, though you must be 18 to buy it.