By Charlotte Huffman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A warning tonight about a supplement that claims to relieve pain.
Unfortunately, experts say it can be dangerous.
The supplement is an herb called Kratom, and it is related to the coffee plant.
It comes in capsules, powder or liquid, and it’s marketed to help relieve pain.
But the herb’s powerful high is what has people talking across the country.
YouTube videos show young people using Kratom and describing the mood-altering high they get from it.
Now, the government has major concerns about Kratom, which is not approved or controlled by the Federal Drug Administration.
In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration recently placed Kratom on what it calls its list of “drugs of concern.”
With names like “Kratomite” and “Superior Red Dragon,” people use it for a quick and easy opium-like high.
It’s cheap, easily accessible and legal.
It is also highly addictive, according to toxicologists.
“Kratom is a substance that binds to the same receptor that morphine, oxycontin, vicodin and heroin all bind to,” says toxicology expert Dr. Edward Boyer.
The I-Team found Kratom flying off store shelves at one smoke shop on South Street.
A worker at the shop told us he had sold out of the herb.
Patty Smith watched as her adult daughter became increasingly addicted to a liquid form of Kratom, spending nearly $1,600 in a period of just a few weeks.
She said her daughter was taking two to three bottles of Kratom a day.
“Ultimately, I was afraid it was going to kill her or ruin her health completely,” said Smith.
Despite the danger, the I-Team had no problem buying Kratom in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
“It gives you a nice warm feeling,” a New Jersey shop clerk told us.
“A lot of people come in here and buy the gold, and this, and you’re supposed to take these together,” said another shop clerk, who gave out product advice on how to maximize Kratom’s high.
Drug and alcohol counselor John Corbett would not advise that.
“People are ending up in emergency rooms, hospitals, rehab,” explained Corbett.
Kratom can lead to serious health issues, including seizures and liver failure.
“We also know some of the materials we purchased online are adulterated with other drugs,” said Boyer. “It really is buyer beware.”
Pennsylvania State Police tell us even though Kratom is legal, it still fits the definition of a drug.
So if you’re driving with Kratom in your system you would be considered impaired and could be arrested for driving under the influence.
For more info, visit: www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/kratom.pdf