The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration could ban the ingredients in kratom, a popular herbal supplement, as early as Friday. The news is driving some consumers to stock up and leaving business owners wondering how they will make up for the loss of profit.
"I don't see why it should be banned in the first place," said a Cleveland-area woman who did not want to give her name. "This herb really does help people."
The woman bought $450 worth of kratom in powder form Thursday at Spirit Apothecarcy in Bedford. She said she never buys that much but is worried she won't be able to buy the supplement for much longer.
"It's not like it makes you high, it literally relieves your pain," she said. She added that she takes kratom a couple of times a week to relieve her pain due to endometriosis.
On Aug. 31, the DEA announced its plans to put kratom's ingredients on the schedule I drug list, making it illegal. Included in that list are heroin, LSD and marijuana. The DEA said kratom produces opiate-like effects and can be easily abused.
“I would wake up and that was one of my first thoughts was like what am I going to do today because I want this, and I didn’t want to do anything unless I could have it," said Kaylee, a 22-year-old Cleveland-area woman who was in a local in-patient rehabilitation center because she said she was addicted to kratom. Prior to kratom, she said she was addicted to heroin, and kratom made her want to do heroin again.
“It’s a tease, and I think it’s a big way to relapse," she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in July that the number of calls to U.S. poison centers regarding kratom had increased tenfold from 26 in 2010 to 263 in 2015.
"I don't have any withdrawals," said Angela Ross, a kratom consumer. "I have a lot of pain. But I'm fine."
Ross is a member of the American Kratom Association, which is lobbying to keep kratom off the DEA's schedule I drug list. The Maple Heights resident said she has scoliosis, herniated disks, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Ross said she has never been addicted to the herbal supplement. The woman who did not want to reveal her identity said she has never been addicted either.
"We always have fantastic kratom sales," said Matt Stewart, owner of Spirit Apothecary and a kratom user himself. He said he takes the supplement for a neurological condition.
Stewart said kratom sales at his store account for upwards of 15% of his business.
The Cleveland-area woman said she is unsure what she will do for pain if or when kratom is banned. Ross said she will have to go back to taking four medications and going to a pain clinic.
The DEA said its acting administrator must first sign an official order to make the ingredients in the herbal supplement illegal.
Six states have already banned kratom: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin.