“I would personally view it as a medication if you take it right…We sell a lot. I mean a lot,” says Amy Willoughby, an employee at Trocadero Plaza Sinclair.
Kratom is a plant that is legal in Kentucky and Illinois, but illegal in Indiana. It’s history dates back two thousand years in Southeast Asia. The plant is converted into a variety of preparations; manufacturers say it can be used for pain, energy, and depression.
In 2016, the plant was nearly classified as a schedule one drug like heroin, but after public outcry, the DEA reversed decision to begin more studies.
“We see all kinds. We see anywhere from young to old. They come in here multiple times a day and they use it for their pain, you know, their energy, relaxation. So it’s all ages and all types…They would prefer to use it over a prescribed medication,” says Willoughby.
But in Evansville, Nate Boyett, the owner of Boyett Treatment Center, who is 18 years clean, has a different perspective. Kratom isn’t always an off-ramp; just a less harmful form of continued maintenance, like methadone.
“I know some people that have went the kratom route. They’re still using it though, but that’s the thing… Some people utilize Suboxone and they kind of utilize it in the same way; kind of almost a replacement therapy. In lower doses, it’s not quite gonna give you all strung out, like pain pills will or street fentanyl will. The risk is extremely low with kratom of actually overdosing and dying,” explains Boyett.
Kratom is often a last ditch effort to stop using a pharmaceutical drug .
“It’s made from the earth and that’s why people come in here and they get this because it’s made from the earth, you can’t overdose on it and it helps you,” says Willoughby.
Nate Boyett says the risk of overdose is minimal compared to street opiates, but that is not to say it’s without risk.
“I’ve definitely seen people thrown off their recoveries just by, you know, ingesting kratom. And then they want to get back and get some more more and more. Because kratom does have an euphoric effect and gives you that sense of well-being. So any substance that does that is gonna draw people back to it again and again,”says Boyett.
With kratom illegal in Indiana, Boyett says he would not recommend kratom for those in recovery without more research of its risks and effects.
“In my opinion it needs regulation, it needs research behind it before it can actually truly be utilized for the benefits that it does have,” adds Boyett.
As always, experts say before you take any supplement to talk to your doctor.