Kratom Can Generate Dependency, Jackson Memorial Hospital Doctor Says

The Southeast Asian tree leaf is becoming very popular in the U.S.

By Myriam Masihy
|  Wednesday, Dec 5, 2012  |  Updated 7:40 AM EDT
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Kratom, which is the leaf of a Southeast Asian tree, is sold as a powder to put in a beverage or a pill you can swallow. If taken in low doses it is said to be a stimulant, and in high doses it allegedly can have a relaxing and pain-relieving effect. But the tea can also generate a dependency or addiction, similar to hard drugs like heroin and prescribed drugs like Oxycodone and Vicodin, doctors say. Dr. Evelyn Benitez, a psychologist at Jackson Memorial Hospital, says she believes the leaf can generate dependency.

Kratom, which is the leaf of a Southeast Asian tree, is sold as a powder to put in a beverage or a pill you can swallow. If taken in low doses it is said to be a stimulant, and in high doses it allegedly can have a relaxing and pain-relieving effect. But the tea can also generate a dependency or addiction, similar to hard drugs like heroin and prescribed drugs like Oxycodone and Vicodin, doctors say. Dr. Evelyn Benitez, a psychologist at Jackson Memorial Hospital, says she believes the leaf can generate dependency.

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It comes in packs that read “Floories,” “Kratom OPM” and “Medicine Man.” It’s marketed as a natural alternative to pain medication – and a legal high.

It’s called Kratom – and it’s becoming very popular in the United States.

Kratom, which is the leaf of a Southeast Asian tree, is sold as a powder to put in a beverage or a pill you can swallow. If taken in low doses it is said to be a stimulant, and in high doses it allegedly can have a relaxing and pain-relieving effect.

But the tea can also generate a dependency or addiction, similar to hard drugs like heroin and prescribed drugs like Oxycodone and Vicodin, doctors say.

“Any kind of chemical that makes us feel happier or less anxious, we don’t learn how to use our own skills to be able to approach these anxiety-provoking situations, and so then we become dependent on it,” said Dr. Evelyn Benitez, a psychologist at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

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Kratom is legal in the U.S. and readily available online or at head shops, but it has been placed on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of drugs and chemicals of concern.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve its consumption and therefore it is not regulated. That’s a red flag, Benitez says, because you really don’t know what you’re getting.

“There’s the possibility of contamination, alteration, so we really don’t know what we’re putting in our system, and especially when it’s sold without any clear proof that it’s being monitored,” she said.

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