Michigan debates future of kratom, an herbal remedy linked to 9 state deaths

Kratom in jars

Kratom is legal and has been used safely for centuries in Asia, according to proponents. Health officials are concerned it may be addictive and, some have argued, even deadly in large doses. (Bridge photo by Robin Erb)

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The crushed leaves in the little plastic bag they found next to his body was not what Peggy LaPenna expected would take her child from her.

It wasn’t the prescription painkillers her son Joey started taking after an eye injury as a teen. It wasn’t the Xanax he’d sneak as a young man, nor the host of street drugs that were a part of his troubled young life.

Rather, what killed 21-year-old Joey LaPenna in January 2018, at least according to the Kent County medical examiner, was a substance that is legal in Michigan: kratom, which was linked to at least nine deaths in the state in 2018, though those cases may have involved other substances as well.

Six states (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Vermont) and several cities have banned kratom, according to the American Kratom Association, an industry group that lobbies for regulations that would keep it safe and legal. 

Michigan is not yet among them, though a state lawmaker is considering legislation to regulate the substance. In the meantime, kratom can be widely purchased in tobacco and head shops, groceries or online. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns it can have psychoactive (mind-altering) effects and carries the risk of “addiction, abuse, and dependence.” In 2016, the federal government tried to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 narcotic, alongside heroin and LSD, only to be met by furious pushback by users citing its painkilling properties.  

Advocates note that it comes from nature and has been used for centuries. More compelling, its supporters say, is the promise kratom holds as a way to help users break free from opioid addiction or post-traumatic stress. 

Kratom comes from the Mitragyna speciosa tree found in Southeast Asia — particularly from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, according to the FDA.  Depending on the maturity of the kratom’s leaves when harvested, it can bring either energy or calm. 

Generally chewed, brewed into hot water as a tea, or powdered and taken in capsules, the herb is believed to have made its way to the U.S. after the Vietnam War, according to the Virginia-based American Kratom Association, which didn’t respond to repeated calls for comment.

Outside a Wild Bill’s Tobacco shop in Lansing, Matthew Breakey had just left with a small amount marketed by the name Train Wreck. A tool and die maker from Eaton Rapids, Breakey said others have urged him to try prescription painkillers for work-related aches and pains.

“I don’t want narcotics in my system,” Breakey said. “Like anything, I guess you could abuse [kratom], but with moderation, it’s a good thing to take .. for pain and for energy.”

In Ann Arbor, Mike Gilbert said he’s been selling kratom for years and has not heard of a serious concern from customers. A customer, Tanisha Ballard, said she sips on it as a tea throughout the day, much like others drink coffee. (Bridge photo by Robin Erb)

Last week, Tanisha Ballard, an Ypsilanti mother and finance professional, dropped by Ethnospot, a natural herbs store in Ann Arbor, to buy a small bottle. She said she stirs it in hot water to make tea, sipping it throughout the day.

At Ethnospot, kratom shares space with jars filled with chamomile, ginkgo biloba, echinacea and other dried plants and herbs. Store co-owner Mike Gilbert said he gets about a dozen customers a week seeking kratom, which he said he buys and packages in small batches to ensure quality.

Ballard said the substances “gives me a bit of energy to get through the day, just like a coffee for other people.” 

Legal limbo

For now, kratom in Michigan, as across much of the U.S., faces an uncertain future. 

The FDA and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency haven’t yet decided how to handle kratom. Some states allow it, while cities within those states may ban it, according to a tracker run by the AKA. The industry group claims nearly 5 million U.S. users, with other estimates ranging from 2 million to 4 million. 

While a handful of states have banned it, others have sought to regulate it. The AKA vows to lobby for laws in 2020 in 21 states that would “prohibit the preparation, distribution, and sale of adulterated or contaminated kratom products, and it has retained lobbyists in Michigan, according to its website.

At least one Michigan lawmaker, Sen. John Bizon, R-Battle Creek, is trying to sort it all out.

Bizon, an ear, nose and throat doctor, introduced a bill in August that would make kratom a Schedule II drug, classifying it as dangerous with a “a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Other Schedule II drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, oxycodone and fentanyl.

Kratom is generally chewed, brewed into hot water as a tea, or taken in capsules. (Bridge photo by Robin Erb)

But he told Bridge Magazine he’s now reconsidering his position and collecting more information. 

“We hate to take it away from the consumer if it truly is not something that is harmful to the public, and the [American] Kratom Association would have us believe that it is not harmful to the public,” he said. “But then we have all these coroners who say that it was the cause of death.”

Harm reduction?

In a state ravaged by the opioid crisis — opioids claimed 2,036 Michigan lives in 2018 — kratom is touted as a safe (or at least, safer) alternative to prescription painkillers and street drugs.

Compounds in kratom affect the same opioid brain receptors as morphine, according to the FDA, providing feelings of pleasure, sedation and a reduction in pain. But federal regulators and the National Institute of Drug Abuse also warn of side effects that can include nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination, appetite loss, seizures, hallucinations and symptoms of psychosis.


Albury Arroyo, who moved from Florida to Michigan, said she has had friends who have used kratom as a strategy to kick addictions to opioids, with mixed success. (Bridge photo by Robin Erb)

Albury Arroyo, 40, a homemaker in Erie in Michigan’s southeast corner, is familiar with both sides of the debate. 

She said she was once a drug addict in Florida, but has been free of illegal drugs for three years. She said friends in Florida tried to step away from street drugs by turning to kratom instead, believing it eases withdrawal from opioids. 

Some, she said, found success. Others became just as addicted to kratom.

“I’ve heard good things. I’ve heard bad things,” she said.

In Lansing, Sen. Bizon said he’s well aware that some people use kratom as a less harmful replacement for opioids. 

“That may very well be true,” he said. But he said when he asks drug recovery experts in the field, “they haven't even heard of kratom.”

Explaining a bad name 

According to the AKA, kratom has gotten a bad name in recent years because of dangerous additives, but in its purest form, kratom is no more addictive than, say, coffee. 

The group says the plant has been mixed with heroin, morphine, and fentanyl and sold to consumers under the impression they were buying pure kratom.

“The issue is that some unscrupulous ‘bad-actors’ have decided to spike natural kratom with toxic doses of dangerous drugs.  And the FDA then leaps to the incorrect conclusion these adulterated kratom products are just the natural kratom,” the AKA writes.  

At least nine people in Michigan died in 2018 after using kratom, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

However, overdose deaths related to kratom could be undercounted because there’s no specific code classifying kratom and the plant may have been lumped in with opioids, including morphine, said Lynn Sutfin, a department spokeswoman.

Kent County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cohle ruled Joey LaPenna’s death was caused by “mitragynine toxicity,” referring to an active ingredient in the kratom plant. Cohle said he’s investigated at least eight deaths related to kratom, but it’s unclear how the kratom may have interacted with other drugs at the time of death. Toxicology tests showed five of the individuals had taken other drugs, too, including cocaine, heroine, oxycodone and fentanyl, he told Bridge.

It may be, too, that some individuals react differently to kratom.

“I don’t really take a position. The FDA hasn’t ruled on it,” Cohle said. “But it has caused some deaths. I’d advise to stay away from it. At the very least, use with caution.”

On the west side of Grand Rapids, Peggy LaPenna recalls the January afternoon the day before her son died.

Joe LaPenna’s mother, Peggy, believes her son first got addicted to drugs from painkillers after a painful eye injury. A medical examiner ruled that his death was caused by an overdose of kratom. (Courtesy photo)

Her painfully thin son was sitting beside her in the passenger seat as they made their way toward their Ada home on U.S. 131.

He had been so stoned that day that LaPenna had to steady him by his belt loop so he could walk to the drug rehab facility they had just visited, but equally, he was so stubborn he’d refused to stay. 

“I just started crying in the car. ‘Joey, I don’t know what to do. I give up. I can’t watch you do this anymore,’”  Peggy, a retired X-ray technician, recalled. “Joey, please. You need help.”

She would later find her son’s body in his bedroom.

Now, more than two years later, LaPenna sometimes sees packets and bottles of kratom in gas stations, and she still wonders what she would have done differently had she had known that her son was using kratom.

“What do you do,” she said, “when a kid can say ‘Mom, it’s legal’?” 

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Fri, 02/14/2020 - 7:22am

Excellent article! I had a surgery a few years back and I became addicted to the pills I was prescribed for pain and I quickly realized why so many people enjoy taking pain medication. After I had no refills left I started buying them off of people I knew. Fortunately, I learned about kratom online and tried it and it’s really helped me put my life back together. I went back to school and I started working again. In the past, it was always the opiate cravings that derailed me. Kratom tea makes the cravings far more manageable. In the last year there have been a handful of times when I know I would have relapsed without the kratom tea. It’s the only thing with which I’ve had long term success and I attribute that to the fact that kratom is much weaker than opiate based drugs. If you take too much it it only makes you feel nauseous so there isn’t much of a benefit to overdoing it. Its also nice not feeling like a zombie all day like I used to.

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 8:08pm

Bryce, so glad you are able to enjoy this blessing. One thing you should know that nausea is from bacteria in the kratom. Good kratom does not cause ANY nausea even at high doses. My experience with kratom also showed me that what they call, "eye wobbles" are also from contamination, even though many vendors deny it. Make sure you report that stuff to your vendor so that they know they have a problem and they can work to get rid of it.

Wed, 12/23/2020 - 5:58pm

I have used Kratom for a year now, for some pain relief and energy boost. Can you suggest the best quality vendor that you have used please. I am concerned about getting bacteria from unreliable vendors. thank you

Karen B
Sat, 03/07/2020 - 10:16am

good for you- but please keep an eye out for symptoms that seem like “vertigo.” That was what my son experienced while taking Kratom, until we found out too late that they were seizures. He died from a seizure brought on by Kratom use last April.

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 8:49am

Like any thing that works that you do not have to see a doctor for they want to out law it!!!!

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 9:07am

Very interesting article and thank you, Bryce, for your comment. Hadn't ever heard of it before. What a crazy world. Please partake responsibly and carefully. Best...

Bob Weltzien
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 9:27am

The deaths are very likely due to poly drug abuse. I don't think that in any of these cases mitragynine was the sole drug mentioned in the toxicology reports.
Food for thought.

William Cutting
Sat, 02/15/2020 - 9:54am

That has always been the case, hasn't it?You would think some people would look into it a little before repeating their colleagues.

John VanOphem
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 9:54am

I just canceled all my future donations to Bridge specifically because of this rotten and awful article. This article is pure junk and a complete hatchet job on kratom. I can't believe that Bridge's editors approved or allowed this inane writing to be published under their name. You all have proven how completely contemptible you are and how you don't deserve our time to read your drivel - let alone our money to support it. Shame on you all!

Jo Ann
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 11:05am

I am confused by your anger and disgust over the article about Kratom. I thought it was even-handed, and carefully explained the opposing views of the possible benefits and harm of using Kratom.
I personally favor leaving its purchase and use legal, but, as with vaping, am concerned about the miscreants who mix it with dangerous ingredients without warning their customers.
As to whether some people are harmed by it, that seems logical. When I read the possible side-effects of the meds I take for my glaucoma, they're scary. Fortunately, I haven't encountered those side effects - other people's bodies are different, and they can't use the medication that works fine so far for me.

Gary Lea
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 11:25am

You’ve conveyed no knowledge; made no argument, besides sounding like Ed Anger.

Rhonda Haven
Sat, 02/15/2020 - 12:14am

I am really tired of the media and their lies to the people! I've been taking Kratom for 3 years on a daily basis. I use it for pain relief for neck and back pain. I have 3 artificial discs in my neck and a plate with 8 screws, 6 herniated discs in my cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. I thought about leaving my job and collecting disability. I am a healthcare professional and have been working for 37 years full time. Now that I take Kratom it gives me the energy and pain relief to be able to function everyday so I can go to work. I also suffer from restless leg syndrome. When I tried to relax in the evenings after working 8 or more hours a day I was unable to, due to restless legs. I was unable to sit still to read, watch TV or just to relax. Kratom also has resolved my restless leg syndrome and has improved my sleep at bedtime. Please do your research before you go putting false information out to the masses. Kratom does not cause death. Every autopsy that has been done on individuals resulted with Kratom in their body with several other drugs as well. There is no proof that Kratom alone has caused any deaths. Alcohol kills hundreds of people on a daily basis in this country.

Renee Canfield
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 10:54am

A kratom consumer protection act should be passed so that people know they're buying only pure UNadaltered leaf. I have safely and responsibly been drinking kratom tea for over 5 and a half years and I only buy it from vendors that do third party testing. I have stage 3 chronic kidney disease from Dr prescribed antiinflammatories Barrett's esophagus pinched nerves sciatica pain anxiety depression PTSD and arthritis all through my body and I also suffer from kidney stones. I have had so many procedures and surgeries that I'm a living raggedy Ann. I have tried all kinds of therapies and medications that didn't work or if they did I couldn't think straight and didn't like how it made me feel. I was on a walker and pretty much bedfast and thanks to the help of kratom I have become a contributing member of my community again, I teach Intercity kids how to grow veggies herbs and flowers in the community garden. Please pass a kratom consumer protection act instead of banning or making people get prescription for natural tea leaf.

Kim Nobles
Sat, 02/15/2020 - 9:52am

I agree with you Renee Canfield. That’s the problem with many pain killers as well. I have Spinal Stenosis, degenerative disc disease, amongst other pain in my body. So I was given norco, the generic form hydrocodone/acetaminophen 325-10s take as needed. No more than 4 in a 24 hour period. I never abused it. I took some days 2 & some days 3. Well since the crackdown on opiates my doctor took me off them. The problem is that there are drug dealers out there who sell drugs on the street & you don’t know what you’re getting. Then there are the idiots who combine drugs or take too much & die. Because of these people, people like me with intensive chronic pain who don’t abuse pain meds have to suffer in pain. Of course the drug administration for more reasons than just what I told you have to get themselves involved. There are millions of people going through what I’m suffering. Can you imagine the poor elderly who suffer with every kind of pain under the sun must be going through. Leave Kratom alone. People need to use their common sense. Something I find a lack of now a days, need to research & find the sellers who have their kratom 3 party tested, we wouldn’t have these issues hopefully. Because as we all know the government has to get involved in our business no matter what. So passing a Kratom Consumer protection act would be the answer. I’ve researched a lot until I found the right sellers of kratom & intend on buying it. Not to get stoned, but to ease my pain. Sorry for such a long answer. But I had to get my 2 cents worth in.

Sat, 02/15/2020 - 2:11pm

Try a good CBD oil for Barrett's. My dad had it and I'm pretty sure I have it as well since it's hereditary. CBD is good for acid reflux and can probably help out you Barrett's.

Florence Southard
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 10:56am

Kratom has been proven, by Dr. Chris McCurdy, to NOT cause respiratory depression. Just because someone had it in their system does not mean it is a cause of their demise. Dr. Chris McCurdy has been studying this leaf for more than 10 years and deems it safe. Look him up on you tube, very interesting stuff. Please stop demonizing this wonderful leaf that has been used for thousands of years and has never killed anyone.

Sam Ward
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 11:06am

92 people died from caffeine last year and that's a fact. Better get on it.!

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 11:16am

I'm confused how this young man's death was ruled as due to kratom when the results from the coroner state that he had other drugs in his system. The mother also states he had a bad drug problem and history, including leaving rehab. The mother is looking for something to blame, using kratom as her scapegoat rather than acknowledging that it was her sons addiction that lead to his death.

Kratom has allowed me to live a happy, healthy life where I am able to work eight plus hours on my feet despite multiple pelvic fractures and sacral fractures as a younger woman.
It also helps immensely with my anxiety and depression. It's not a cure-those don't really exist. However it is a helpful tool in my belt of living my best life.

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 11:29am

LIES! show us a toxicology report that shows JUST kratom!! Its a dried Leaf!! How much did BIG Pharma pay this media outlet?? Ive been using kratom for over 5 years!!! Only side effect i ever experienced was a lil nausea for maybe 10 -15 min! Kratom is literally a dried leaf!!! Opiates are chemicals!!

Jennifer Carter
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 11:50am

It's always sad when someone so young loses their life. I feel for every family member who has lost someone due to abuse of drugs. I feel very strongly these deaths are not due to Kratom alone. Anyone who has taken too much Kratom knows what happens when you do - you vomit. That is because Kratom is a cousin to the coffee plant and it's alkaloids are absorbed into the body as such. So when you have all the alkaloids your body needs and you take extra, guess what happens - your body rejects additional ones and that's why many people literally will vomit as a side effect. Many Asian countries use Kratom and they are not reporting deaths. Please all the naysayers think about why an attack is being made on this plant. It is saving 100s of lives everyday - those opioid addicted friends, family members that have now chosen to be free from pills and guess what? Big pharma is noticing! Big pharma doesn't want people to heal, they want us sick. Why else do we let them advertise on TV? Why else does a country allow pharmaceutical reps to train our doctors in diagnosing illnesses? There's money to be made in keeping people sick, in keeping people addicted and in keeping people complacent with antidepressants? They are a business and what other plant is there that actually heals but has a price on its head just like this one Kratom? Marijuana of course. This is another war because Kratom actually works and the FDA can't control mother nature. Michigan has an advantage here to educate other states on the benefits this miracle plant. We should step up and blaze the path of redemption for those patients whom doctor's have enslaved through the use of their "cures". Maybe research the benefits like its ability to lower blood sugar and or steady glucose levels in diabetics? It doesn't just cure opiate addiction, it does so much more.

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 12:08pm

This tea is not responsible for any death's. In fact it is responsible for saving lives . From living with chronic pain, addiction of several substances. Just not fair to continually spread misinformation and try to make kratom illegal. Some of us don't want to go on another drug like Suboxone for help. Even though I understand the financial gains .

Baltimore Brom
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 12:09pm

This is bunch of reefer madness bullshit. Kratom did not kill that kid. You know what happens when to take too much kratom? You get sick to your stomach and throw it up. Big Pharma wants you to think this b.s. so people in pain keep eating and paying for their opioids. I have to wonder if the author has any connection to the pharmaceutical industry.

Sue McManus
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 12:33pm

I am a mom of 3. I am a grandmother of 3. I have worked as a nurse, a computer tech and studied as a software engineer. In 2005, while hiking in Mexico, I fell and hit my shin. I was dx'd with CRPS which is the worst pain known to medicine.  I became housebound. I couldn't lay down. I lived and slept in a recliner. I could barely walk. The pain was excruciating. I took 5 kinds of RX meds for pain -morphine,  methadone and gabapentin. At one point in 2014, I almost died from my Dr prescribed medications. I was in the ICU for 3 days while intubated.

In 2016, I moved from CO back home to FL and I was forced tapered off my meds. I was lucky to find kratom. I have been taking it since summer 2017. Since then, my pain is mostly down by half. My head is clearer.  I can carry a whole conversation. I sleep in a bed instead of a recliner. I can walk at least a mile a day.  I can do my writing, painting and crafts again. Kratom certainly has not taken 100% of my pain away but neither did opioids.  The difference is I am not in a stupor and passing out mid-sentence or take dangerous chemicals or have to worry if I will die from an opiod overdose. I feel I more like myself again. 
Kratom has given me my life back.  I can have plans for a life and finally, after years of hardship and pain, I have hope again. 
Sue McManus

Renee Canfield
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 1:26pm

A kratom consumer protection act should be passed so kratom consumers would know what they buy is pure UNadaltered leaf. I have safely and responsibly been drinking kratom tea for over 5 and a half years and I only buy from vendors that do third party testing. I have stage 3 chronic kidney disease from Dr prescribed antiinflammatories Barrett's esophagus pinched nerves sciatica pain anxiety depression PTSD arthritis all through my body and I also suffer with kidney stones. I have had so many procedures and surgeries that I'm a living living raggedy Ann. I have tried all kinds of therapies and medications and nothing really worked or if it did I couldn't think straight and didn't like how it made me feel. I was using a walker and pretty much bedfast and with the help of kratom I have become a contributing member of my community again, I teach Intercity kids how to grow veggies herbs and flowers in the community garden. With kratom I am clear headed and no buzz. I have had blood work done for the past 4 years and have never had anything come back bad, I've gotten better and better. Please consider a kratom consumer protection act.

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 1:30pm

What killed him wasn’t the painkillers he had been abusing? It was the kratom?? There are zero instances ever of kratom being the only thing in a dead persons body. There’s always something actually lethal. Drama, trying to take away something that allows pain patients to function. You’d rather we die from a heart attack or stroke when our bodies give out from pain. That’s what’s happening. I personally have no prescription pain medicine. I’d be curled in a ball on my bed if it wasn’t for my teaspoon of kratom every 2 hours. How is having pain elevate my blood pressure to 200/90 for extended periods of time good? Pulse 150. and
There’s a huge difference also between dependence and addiction. There’s also a difference betweenness cherry picking and drama, and facts and reality. Shame on you!

Rae Clark
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 1:49pm

I have a condition that causes 6-8 week acute pain "crisis". At which time I end up using oxycodone sometimes oxycontin and various other opioids to be able to function. When the crisis is over of course I stop the opioid pain meds. Causing acute withdrawal symptoms which are almost as miserable as the pain was. I'm a retired RN and was at a loss and a friend introduced me to kratom, which took all the withdrawal symptoms away and I've never had withdrawal symptoms from stopping the kratom. Since using the kratom I have fewer acute pain crisis, shorter duration and pain is controlled much more effectively. I've become a kratom advocate. I would say to those who are worried about people overdosing you can overdose on just about anything. You can over dose on water, too much water taken in causes water intoxication and yes you can die from it.

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 2:50pm

All the FDA cares about is money. This miracle plant pulls money away from big pharma and that is 100% the reason they are going after Kratom so hard. It's a shame that we mean more to them sick than healthy.

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 3:03pm

All the deaths related to Kratom were because the people had other substances in there system. Kratom hasn't by itself killed anyone.

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 5:08pm

Water is deadly if you drink too much. Following a long-term battle with pain due to a bad hip, I was dependent in pain medicine. I would try to stop talking them and would get sick. So, I continued taking pain meds to mitigate the sickness. Finally, I found and researched kratom. Kratom is why I'm now drug-free.
As with any supplement, be responsible. The benefit of kratom far outweighed the risk, in my situation. I feel these "killer kratom" articles are missleading at face value. If your going to list kratom as a potential cause if death, show proof.

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 6:00pm

Total bs article. If something works for the millions that are in pain everyday it gets taken away but not a damn word is said about alcohol. Let us make our own goddamn decisions and stop making a big deal out of a few deaths that in reality are probably not related at all to kratom. Maybe this mother should have known her son better and I can guarantee he was taking other drugs. Total scare tactic bs nonsense produced by a false media that we allow and believe. If someone want to self medicate let the. There are way too many people on this planet as it is.

Mike Shumer
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 7:54pm

Show your proof of the deaths supposedly caused by Kratom.

Those deaths the naysayers point to relented later that those individuals had other substances in their systems, heroin, cocaine, etc.
Simply tell the truth, someone isnt getting their cut of a plant that John Q Public has found to work at relieving the same symptoms of pain to a large degree in level with opioids, minus the withdrawal issues.
FDA hasnt banned it, ask yourself why not?

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 8:50pm

This woman's son did NOT die from kratom. Im very sorry for her loss, no parent should ever have to bury their children. But they are using his case to spread disinformation. The article reads that the day before he was nodding off. I have NEVER seen anyone on kratom nodding. It seems so obvious to me he still had his hands on illicit drugs. There is a clear agenda against kratom, and it is funded by the pharmaceutical companies. Lets say that 9 people HAD died from only kratom, which they didn't. Compare that to the hundreds of thousands killed by oxycontin. Kratom has helped an astronomical amount more people than it has harmed.

Sun, 02/16/2020 - 10:38am

To the person who defended kratom because it was a "leaf" and not a "chemical", this was the stupidest comment on the whole thread, of which there were plenty. Leaves ARE chemicals. That's why they have an effect. Consumers should have access to an unadulterated compound AND we should have the scientific knowledge available to use it wisely. The Bridge article was even-handed leaving someone with a modicum of a brain wanting more study done on a potentially useful drug. I just want to know that I'm putting something in my body that is adulterated with something repulsive or dangerous like paraquat.

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 3:09pm

So here's an idea. Don't take it. DO feel free to do more research because the only ignorant comment I see here is yours.

Trent Stout
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 10:27pm

How many deaths do alcohol and tobacco cause per year? Maybe they should be a Schedule I narcotic? They certainly seem more harmful than kratom.

Emily Greiner
Fri, 02/14/2020 - 10:55pm

Anything taken at a large dose is possibly dangerous, plus the combined drug use by all deceased persons. I believe it is safe and share the opinion of the first comment. Agree. It saved my life when I’d been on painkillers for 6 years for RA. Helped me get off completely without withdrawal. Didn’t get addicted. I know 3 others who use it minimally (<10grams/day) to help with pain. One man who died had 90 grams in his system. That’s insane. If you take too much you will puke and not feel well. But that’s true of so many herbs. It’s a wonderful herb, and needs to be regulated (no impurities, 3rd party rested), not banned! It took 92 years for marijuana to come back and look at all the people it helps now. It was also made out to be “so dangerous!” You can overdose on coffee, ginkgo biloba, tea tree, dandelion root. Good article. Thank you for asking kratom users and the AKA.

middle of the mit
Sat, 02/15/2020 - 2:21am

Did the Kratom industry decide to flood this board?

Because cannabis is far less dangerous. And there are still people on this board that deny it while still refusing to read the court section of their local paper.

I don't know about this plant or what it does, all I know is that cannabis is better.

And if you are going to defend this drug? Don't beat up on cannabis.

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 3:11pm

How is cannabis FAR less dangerous?? I'll wait.

Sat, 02/15/2020 - 6:25am

Why not ban the horrible worthless compound that is a bigger killer. About 150 Americans die every year from acetaminophen poisoning.
In fact, that figure's is conservative. Over the summer, Time reported that closer to 500 people die in the U.S. from overdosing on acetaminophen, with another 55,000 to 80,000 ending up in the ER for the same reason. And it's not just Tylenol—the ingredient also appears in Excedrin pain tablets, Sudafed sinus pills, and hundreds of other over-the-counter products.

William Houston
Sat, 02/15/2020 - 6:29am

And even worse there's alcohol my God how many people are are because of the consumption of alcohol which is legal but so destructive all this is just another legal tactic just like when GHB was on the news gamma-hydroxybutyrate which is a chemical that is necessary in every part of every cell of your body especially the brain it was portrayed is Ajax or drain cleaner but fear tactics work they got it off shelves at GNC and a couple years later it was a prescription medicine

William Cutting
Sat, 02/15/2020 - 9:51am

I think you'll find those deaths were CLEARLY caused by something other than this plant. I wish these "reporters" would quit repeating this nonsense. Making this plant illegal will destroy many lives. THAT'S THE TRUTH.

Burt Kreischer
Sat, 02/15/2020 - 12:33pm

There has never been a death from a kratom-only overdose. Every death has been poly substance abuse or car accident. Kratom has been used safely for 100s of years by indigenous people, the nerve of our media and government. Unbelievable, typical monkey see monkey do article copied from another source

Sat, 02/15/2020 - 12:43pm

Kratom is the most miraculous plant I've come across next to cannabis, and both of these plants saved my life. I have fibromyalgia, scoliosis, and interstitial cystitis (AKA painful bladder syndrome, in which the pain is likened to those with stage 4 cancer diagnoses). I'm in constant excruciating pain, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the last 12 years of my life and it will only worsen as I get older. There is no possible way I can get through my day without some serious pain relief. I started being prescribed pain medication at the age of 13 (I'm 26 now). Both of my parents are drug addicts (mother- meth, father- heroin, pills) and my Dr was also my mother's doctor so she was fully aware of my parents history, yet still decided to give a CHILD 120 narcotic pills a month. I was a kid and didn't know any better. I became incredibly addicted after a few years and it completely destroyed my young life. I couldn't keep a job, couldn't get to my college courses on time, couldn't do anything before eating a handful of pharmaceuticals. I was hopelessly depressed and slept 16 hours a day at times. I took to the streets to buy pills when I ran out of my prescription early, which I always did. All for an addiction I didn't ask for. It's not like I went out and picked up a needle one day for fun, or popped a pill a friend gave me just to try it and ended up addicted. No, Big Pharma ensured I would be a slave to their game. I'm sorry but no child needs 120 pain pills a month; they knew exactly what type of life they were setting me up to live. Fast forward to 3 years ago when I finally decided to take back control of my life and went cold turkey through 6 hellish weeks of withdrawals. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy; it is awful. I hadn't heard of kratom at this time, and went a full year with only smoking cannabis or ingesting edibles. This worked well for my pain, however anyone who's used marijuana can tell you it can be incredibly difficult to concentrate. I found it very difficult to work any jobs that required attention to detail and quick thinking, so I worked very menial, unfulfilling positions. Then everything changed when I found kratom. I have been using it daily for over 2 years now, and am doing better than I ever have in my entire life. I'm able to work 40-50 hours a week with no issues with concentration or fogginess and actually have a life again. For so many years I could barely get out of bed, and now kratom has given me the ability to live my 20s to the fullest. How many decades were we fed absolute lies about cannabis? "Reefer madness"? For years Big Pharma and the FDA knew that there were some medicinal benefits and yet doubled down on their crusade to convince everyone otherwise. Their only objective is to make money, and kratom is jeopardizing that because we're able to stop using all pharmaceuticals. Of course they're going to continue spreading lies to keep their profits! Look into the fact that they already have a patent on some of the alkaloids in kratom and are planning on turning it into a drug, which means they acknowledge there are medical benefits! Yes, kratom has some risks, but so does eating fast food and drinking 6 cups of coffee a day. You can die from drinking too much water. If you Google the leading causes of death for Americans, eating unhealthy food and consuming alcohol are the number one contributors to an untimely death. Alcohol is the leading cause of death among any substances yet there would be absolute chaos if anyone tried to outlaw the consumption of liquor. How many people die from drunk driving every year? How many people end up with chronic diagnoses derived from drinking too much? Yet somehow all that's okay and this plant isn't? Everything has its risks, but for kratom they are so minute compared to the risks of opiates and alcohol, which have VERIFIABLE EVIDENCE of literally thousands of people dying each and every year due to overdosing. I am only one of millions whose lives have been forever changed for the better due to this miraculous little leaf. I am a member of many kratom support groups and I can't even count how many thousands of people I see sharing their story everyday on how it's saved their lives. So many people have been able to get off pills, heroin, meth, alcohol, and even all of their prescribed pharmaceutical medications. Making this miraculous plant illegal would send many of your citizens back to their drug of choice and back to a life of crime in order to support those addictions. Please, think about how many children finally have their parents back to normal, think about how many people are now working and contributing to society, and think about the countless lives you'll destroy in a disastrous way if you outlaw something that has saved so many. I hope you introduce the Kratom Consumer Protection Act to ensure that those who consume it can rest easy knowing they have a state government that listens to their needs. We need regulation, not criminalization.

Sat, 02/15/2020 - 1:19pm

1) What is Kratom Toxicity? Can the medical examiner explain that?

2) Can the medical examiner explain the way Kratom causes death? What does it do to the body that causes a person to die?

3) Can the medical examiner say, without any doubt, that Kratom was the only drug in system? No fentanyl, or Chinese version of that analogue?

4) He says it interacts with other medicines? How exactly and which medicines?

5) On any of the questions above, please ask the medical examiner to point to specific tests or studies that show what he is saying has been researched or proven with lab tests or even evidenced by human experiences.

If these questions cannot be answered, as a media/journalist why are your publishing the same crap over and over that everyone says, but cannot prove? You do realize that a medical examiner isn’t a scientist and they can say someone died of pretty much anything, right? A person can drink too much water and die! It happens, yet water isn’t regulated or banned. Nobody is writing stories parading a mom around talking about every time she sees bottled water in a gas station...but it is still legal?

There has been enormous amount of evidence to the exact contrary of this article but as a reporter these folks never report it! There are actual scientists who know about toxicity and addiction who say that Kratom is not the thing that needs to be illegal, nor is it any more addictive than other things we sell every day including alcohol. Why don’t you publish that? Do you realize half the crap sold in gas stations can make you sick. The answer, DO NOT BUY MEDICINES IN GAS STATIONS!

Nobody takes Kratom to hey high! This is the little fact that the media doesn’t say but everyone who takes it clearly understands

Sat, 02/15/2020 - 1:47pm

People need to be educated. The key phase is " other substances" when death occured. Anything can be addictive especially if u have an addictive personality.

Sat, 02/15/2020 - 2:03pm

What about the "other" substances like cocaine and herion in their systems? Just another hack piece by media to get a story and help out Big Pharma. I feel sorry for the woman who lost her son, but it wasn't from Kratom. It said her son "was so stoned" when she took him to rehab, that she had to hold onto him to keep him steady. Anybody that knows anything about Kratom, knows it doesn't get you stoned. He obviously had a lot of other problems and they chose to blame Kratom because it's the easy choice to pick. Neither the FDA nor Big Pharma want the truth to come out. This is a natural plant that can heal not kill.

Joseph Johnson
Sat, 02/15/2020 - 8:39pm

This is absolutely Fake News! Kratom is a Alkaloid exactly like coffee. Been around for Centuries, with no problems.

So the problem lies with the FDA and the DEA. They stand to lose money in the pharmaceuticals. How about multi Billion dollars a quarter of a year

Deaths that are reported, always have
other "REAL DRUGS IF CONCERN " in the system.

I'm part of the AKA. American Kratom Association. Don't be fooled by the PROPAGANDA again.

Gary Wilson
Sun, 02/16/2020 - 1:00am

I read the entire entire article and I was surprised as I kept reading that it was pretty fair and balanced but since the article is long, only those who were interested enough to read the entire editorial to the end would have finally been able to read both sides of this issue, which is very unusual, and especially so with having the comment forum at the end. The way this was structured though having so much false information from those attacking Kratom until the end of the editorial causes me to suspect a motive. Also who is thats claiming that the kratom Association would not respond after repeated calls? I find this suspect also, because they would have nothing to hide and would welcome the opportunity to respond. The editorial also didn’t mention that there were 12 independent prestigious and highly respected research scientists who gave their findings to the FDA along their recommendations. The pharmaceutical industry not only lobbies congress heavily to enforce their biddings but also donates very large sums to the FDA. It is not a hidden secret but a well-known fact that the pharmaceutical industry Will do everything in their power to ensure that nothing interferes with their drug profits and in spite of an epidemic of opiate addiction and deaths.

Beverly Conrad
Sun, 02/16/2020 - 5:01am

Kratom saves lives! Please follow the science of this leaf in the coffee family. Help pass The Kratom Consumer Protection Act to keep kratom safe and available.

Sun, 02/16/2020 - 7:22am

Kratom is saving the lives of millions of people. Chronic pain patients being pushed under the mat have found relief from this plant. It’s no more addictive then caffeine, which also can be abused and lead to death.
Without kratom, my pain was unmanageable. I had an cancerous ovarian tumor rupture and after that my pain was constant. Removing the tumor, Chronic pain doctors, physical therapy, nothing helped. I spent most of the day in bed. I couldn’t drive a car, couldn’t push a grocery cart. After someone mentioning kratom to me I did my research, ordered from a reputable online vendor, and my life took a complete 180. I can now do most of the things I used to, most importantly being active in my daughters life.

Sun, 02/16/2020 - 11:39am

Alcohol is legal and kills countless people every year. Same with cigarettes. Those should be schedule 1 drugs! Kratom should be regulated, as every drug should, but to jump to making it schedule 1 with basically no evidence of it being the sole cause of death is insane. Yet, it's legal for doctors to prescribe pain killers meant for hospice only, to people who our just in pain. Way to go America! What a joke.

Kevin G. Dolgos
Sun, 02/16/2020 - 2:12pm

I live in Michigan. I have only purchased kratom powder from vendors who do third party testing for quality control. I've been using it for 1.5 years and have never had any problems with health from its use.

Sun, 02/16/2020 - 2:16pm

I live in Michigan. I have only purchased kratom powder from vendors who do third party testing for quality control. I've been using it for 1.5 years and have never had any problems with health from its use.

Mon, 02/17/2020 - 8:52am

OK and How many people have died from vaporing? That is being pushed onto kids by the tobacco companies like they did cigarettes in the 50 and 60! that is now being protect by tRUMP!

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 9:58pm

"Vaporing" pushed by tobacco companies??? Nobody died from vaping, it was illegal THC cartridges contaminated with vitamin E oil that caused the deaths. Quit giving into "fake news" and think for yourself. It's all about the $$$, kratom and vaping are better/safer alternatives to tobacco and opiates! #followthescience and research! Trump 2020!

Lynda King
Wed, 02/19/2020 - 10:43pm

I have a rare abdominal disease and chronic pancreatitis. The mesenteric panniculitis is actually more painful than the pancreatitis when flaring. I did not have access to pain medication nor pain management. The pain was literally killing me. I had heard about kratom and was scared to try it at first because of all the negative things that are posted about it. I finally reached the point that I had nothing to loose. Now I’m thankful for it!
I started researching and found a reputable vendor online. I started using very small amounts and keeping a journal. When I found the right dosage for my pain I realized I no longer needed any medication for depression nor anxiety. My husband started using it for pain and completely quit drinking alcohol.
I have used responsibly for several years. On the rare days that I don’t need it, I have no problem in not taking it. Caffeine, I will notice the day of, but never the kratom. I have never experienced any kind of high from it. I only take the amount that works for me. Just like medication, people need to be responsible with any supplements.
A kratom protection act would bless all that use it. Keeping us safe and keeping regulations for vendors. Kratom works for me and my family. It should be my choice to not take narcotics to control my health issues.
Again, regulations would protect everyone, but a ban would destroy many lives.

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 12:03pm

Funny how there was no info released on specific cause of death and exactly HOW kratom was involved, other than it was in their system.

How many people are killed by tobacco, alcohol and sugar every day? Why is there no push to ban them??

Something is wrong with this picture

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 12:04am

Wow. Here we go again. I've been using kratom since 2012 with NO problems. I had past problems with opiates. I hope they don't make it illegal. It will have a synergistic effect on other drugs. I'd bet a dime to a dollar no one died from kratom alone. "Kent County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cohle ruled Joey LaPenna’s death was caused by “mitragynine toxicity,” referring to an active ingredient in the kratom plant. Cohle said he’s investigated at least eight deaths related to kratom, but it’s unclear how the kratom may have interacted with other drugs at the time of death. Toxicology tests showed five of the individuals had taken other drugs, too, including cocaine, heroine, oxycodone and fentanyl, he told Bridge." Taken from the article.

Drew Lippman
Mon, 02/24/2020 - 8:03am

This article is just another example of the fear campaigns reckless journalism exemplifies. A young man with a history of drug abuse dies with Meth, Heroin and Alchohol in his system and they blame Kratom. If this article could provide one example of Mitragynine solely responsible for a death I would be inclined to investigate. This is trash and needs to be ignored. Im sure this young man had Nicotine in his system why are we not blaming Nicotine? See how pathetic it is? I will be writing my counselman a letter with actual facts. Not opinionated garbage like this article. Lets hear about someone dying solely from Mitragynine? It wont happen it's been used in Asia for over two thousand years and there is not one case of Mitragynine causing a death, period.

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 8:07am

This article is just another example of the fear campaigns reckless journalism exemplifies. A young man with a history of drug abuse dies with Meth, Heroin and Alchohol in his system and they blame Kratom. If this article could provide one example of Mitragynine solely responsible for a death I would be inclined to investigate. This is trash and needs to be ignored. Im sure this young man had Nicotine in his system why are we not blaming Nicotine? See how pathetic it is? I will be writing my counselman a letter with actual facts. Not opinionated garbage like this article. Lets hear about someone dying solely from Mitragynine? It wont happen it's been used in Asia for over two thousand years and there is not one case of Mitragynine causing a death, period.

S Long
Mon, 02/24/2020 - 9:16pm

Coffee is a stimulant and is addictive too. Let's ban it. Vitamin D can be deadly when overconsumed and taken with an abundance of alcohol , for goodness sakes. What about green tea? What's next? These people need to educate themselves. Opiods are killing people not kratom tea. If the don't believe every day people read it from John Hopkins https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/newsroom/news-releases/natural-herb... r watch Leaf of Faith on Netflix. Please regulators just stop allowing opiods to be sold by pharmacists...

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 9:33pm

I seriously doubt you left a message with AKA and they didn't call you back. Were you rushing to put this terribly outdated misfactual article out and gave them 5 minutes notice on a voicemail? There is more current and factual information out there. Google John Hopkins and kratom please and report on that.

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 10:10am

Here we go again, our government at its worst merrily taking away what little freedom people have left. Remember how well prohibition worked? The government is out of control and they can’t think of anything better to do than worry about kratom? Seriously? Which nobody has died of btw, these witch hunts are ridiculous. The government nor anyone else is ever going to be able to save stupid people from themselves and I’m tired of paying the price for their idiocy. You now have to show id to buy glue, cold medicine and don’t get me started on this supposed “opioid crisis”. The list goes on. I say it’s time for the government to back off, with all due respect of course.

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 7:45pm

Aspirin is more harmful than kratom.

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 1:15pm

You can't OD on kratom lol. I'm sure her son had more in his system than that. Do a little research first.

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 9:46pm

Thank you for talking to honest people about this plant but I hate the way you ended this article, its deceiving. I find it dubious how you strongly suggest that kratom is truly what killed this poor young lad when kratom is not killing any of the millions of people like me who use it safely every day. How many people die every day from alcohol? Does that mean we should ban it? It is evil in the eyes of God to ban something because someone has misused it. Let those who use it correctly be blessed with it, and let those who don't be corrected or lose their right to those things.
By the way, when I was foolish young man, I took extremely high doses of kratom to test it and see how good it would make me feel, and nothing really happened other than me getting a little talkative and relaxed, my tolerance went up and I stopped using it. So I knew the commissioner of the FDA was a liar right when he started making these claims. Just to double-check, I went and investigated this man a bit, and then it became more clear what was really happening, greedy rich men are trying to ban kratom because they know people like me are using it instead of their pharmaceutical drugs. Worse, they know that people are getting away from their deadly and addictive patented opiates in replace of this plant that is not an opiate.

A rational person cannot hear all the facts about this situation with kratom and still continue to think that the FDA is being sincere with their claims about kratom.
Consider the following if you have an open mind and a loving heart... How many are dead because of fentanyl, a drug that commissioner sells now while working on the board at Phizer), ? 17 thousand people died last year from prescription opiates and is the FDA trying to ban those? The FDA is corrupt, we all know it.
Can you please investigate the corruption at the FDA that we have been seeing so much of since the birth of the patented medicine industry in this great nation?
One such case would be when Reagan said marijuana was the most dangerous drug in this country while his FDA approved a patent for a synthetic cannabinoid drug, the drug that is in marijuana. He lied in favor of greed and this kind of behavior should be punishable by law. They have been lying to us about every medicinal plant under the sun. Please work to undo this corruption and injustice and may God bless you to do so.
So according to your article, you take seriously the words of the former commissioner of the FDA who makes millions off of deadly opiates that people are trying to get off of by using kratom, which is a mild plant that is proven to help fentanyl withdrawals?

I pray, May The Lord God have mercy and soften the hearts of these greedy fools so that they do not perish in their sins and may The Lord Jesus also bless them to be righteous while bringing them all to justice according to His will and may He bless the journalist to stop producing fictional and sensational work like this. amen

Eunice Noah
Tue, 03/31/2020 - 7:27pm

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Mark K
Thu, 10/15/2020 - 11:27am

The part in the article were it said we asked drug recovery experts about Kratom and they never heard of tells me you talked to the wrong "experts". I have been in the recovery field for 22 years and have been aware of Kratom for about 10 of those years.