What is kratom and why is it illegal in some states? What to know after DEA raid in Biloxi

Courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Administration

Biloxi Councilman Robert Deming III was the subject of a DEA investigation Thursday as agents raided his home and businesses that sell kratom.

The investigation into the stores Deming owns has been going on for about a year and a half, Chris Bell, resident agent in charge of the DEA in Gulfport said, and agents were looking for documents inside his home and shops in Biloxi and Ocean Springs.

“We had complaints at the businesses in and around the Gulf Coast of products that were sold and having ill effects on people consuming them,” Bell said.

Deming has not been arrested or detained. The DEA said the target of the raid was synthetic cannabinoid oils and edibles.

Kratom supplements have long polarized the U.S. and are outlawed in some places.

For the past five years, Mississippi lawmakers have tried to ban the use and sale of kratom.

As fast as the bills have died, new bills have been introduced. In Mississippi legislature’s 2023 session, House Bill 5 and House Bill 364 will add kratom to schedule I of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

The Drug Policy House Committee will consider House Bill 883 and the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Senate Bill 2244. The bills would enact the Mississippi Kratom Consumer Protection Act. The protection act would prohibit the preparation, distribution and sale of adulterated or contaminated kratom products. It would also introduce fines and penalties for violating the act.

When the first bill died in committee in 2018, cities and counties started introducing laws to criminalize kratom. Caledonia and Columbus were the first cities to pass ordinances banning the sale and possession of kratom. In 2021, Pearl River was the first county in South Mississippi to ban kratom, joining more than 30 counties and municipalities.

Kratom is illegal in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

What is kratom?

Mitragyna speciosa, commonly known as kratom, is a plant native to Southeast Asia. The herbal drug is used for treating pain, depression and anxiety. It has been used “as a stimulant, analgesic and treatment for opioid addiction,” according to ACS Central Science.

It is commonly sold in CBD stores, vape store and vitamin shops on the Mississippi Coast.

How is kratom used?

Kratom is swallowed as a pill, crushed and smoked, brewed as a tea, and chewed as raw leaves, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Some advocates of kratom say that the drug, in its purest form, is a safer alternative to heroine, fentanyl and morphine.

How does kratom affect the body?

At low doses, kratom can increase alertness, physical energy and talkativeness.

At high doses, the drug is an addictive sedative. It can cause hallucinations, delusions and confusion.

In 2019, the Center for Disease Control reviewed death certificates and toxicology reports for an 18-month period.

In that period, kratom caused 91 overdose deaths in 27 states. While Mississippi was not one of the states, a number of Southern states — including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina — reported deaths.

Most of the victims had combined kratom with heroin, fentanyl or other drugs, but kratom was the only substance detected in seven of the deaths.

Some side effects include nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination and loss of appetite.

Long-term use can cause anorexia, weight loss and insomnia.

Why is kratom illegal in some states?

Some companies market kratom as a treatment for opioid addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

However, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission prohibit the sales of kratom as an addiction treatment. The FDA has not proven the drug’s safety or effectiveness.

“For addiction, no such study is currently known to exist for kratom,” said the FDA. “Thus, any addiction treatment claims regarding such products are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.”