What is kratom? Herbal supplement blurs legal lines


You can buy kratom over the counter but depending on state lines it can buy you time in jail, too. The herbal supplement from Asia is in the Tri-State spotlight now.

Cara Beckerle, mother of Aleah Beckerle, admitted to using kratom this week after her probation was revoked. She’s in the Vanderburgh County jail as of Wednesday night. 

If Beckerle lived across the Ohio River it would be a different story. In Kentucky, you can buy kratom as easily as your groceries. Just walk into most gas stations, convenience stores, or tobacco outlets. You’ll likely see the colorful pouches of green pills and powder.

Scientists say kratom can help drug addiction, but former users say it can be abused.

Jessica Stacy is a client at the Women’s Addiction Recovery Manor in Henderson. She has seen rock bottom addicted to opiates like heroin. Her road to recovery is a rocky one.

“I’ve done kratom quite a bit,” Stacy says. “It’s like a lot of euphoria and a warm feeling.”

Jessica was like so many other opiate users now, turning to kratom as an easy way to get high while staying clean on drug tests. That’s why Jessica Kinney used it, too.

“It was legal, and it was everywhere, you could buy it in any store,” Kinney says. “You do an enormous amount of it, it can give you the same side effects of using opiates.”

Advocates say the herbal supplement can help pain relief and may be used to break addiction to other drugs. However, its intended use is as blurry as the lines of legality.

Kratom is banned in 6 states, including Indiana but not Kentucky. The Tri-State border makes buying and using the drug easy.

There are no FDA-approved uses for kratom, and the agency has received concerning reports about the safety of the supplement. The FDA is encouraging more research into the plant to see if there is a medicinal use.

The DEA is considering whether to put kratom in the same category of illegal drugs like heroin and LSD. There is no timeframe for the DEA’s decision.

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(This story was originally published May 2, 2018)

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