Written By: Fiona Stockard
Kratom May Soon be Illegal in Palm Beach County
The legal and often controversial drug Kratom is once again in the center of a south Florida policy debate.
Ian Mautner, a twenty year old from Boynton Beach, killed himself on July 16th. He jumped from an overpass onto I-95. Yikes. Rest peacefully, Ian.
His mother, Linda Mautner, believes Ian was addicted to Kratom and that the drug led directly to his death.
Upon searching Ian’s car, police discovered six empty packets of Kratom and two full packets. The toxicology reports haven’t yet been completed, but local officials are already calling for a ban of the substance.
Public Backlash Against Kratom Grows
Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams is leading the charge to make Kratom illegal. He’s gone on record as stating, “It struck a cord in south country, where the young man died. It is an issue we would want to address.”
Abrams is waiting until the full police and coroner’s report is released to make any formal policy announcements, though.
Earlier this year, Sarasota County passed a law banning the sale of Kratom, bath salts, and synthetic marijuana (spice). This is the latest example of local government tightening regulations on Kratom. Counties in Arizona, Vermont, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Iowa all have some form of Kratom legislation. Also, the state of Indiana has banned the sale of all Kratom alkaloids, though the plant itself is still legal to possess.
This raises two important points. First, what exactly is Kratom and why is there a country wide debate about it’s legal status? Second, should Kratom be regulated and controlled in the same manner as drugs like heroin and cocaine?
What is Kratom Anyway?
Kratom is the popular name for the leaves of the tree Mitragyna speciosa. This is a native plant of Southeast Asia and is actually in the same family as the coffee plant.
Kratom has a long history of use by indigenous peoples. In fact, people from southern Thailand have chewed Kratom leaves for thousands of years. It’s used to treat everything from tooth pain to bad moods.
The psychoactive effects of Kratom are varied. In small doses, it gives users a stimulant type high. At larger doses, it gives users a depressant type high. This is where it becomes compared to heroin and other opioids.
The type of Kratom ingested also alters the psychoactive effects. White-vein Kratom leaf is known to produce stimulating effects. Red-vein Kratom, on the other hand, produces sedating and depressant effects.
Over the past few years, Kratom has become increasingly popular in the U.S. This is due to one major factor – the introduction of additives to Kratom powder. The most popular additive is O-Desmethyltramadol, which is actually a metabolite of Kratom itself.
When O-Desmethyltramadol is added to Kratom powder, it goes from being a restively harmless substance to being incredibly addicting. Various alkaloids are also added to Kratom powder. The most popular of these are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.
When it’s mixed with these metabolites and alkaloids, Kratom becomes much stronger and more addicting. However, should it be made illegal?
The Legal Debate over Kratom
All across the country, Kratom’s legal status is being hotly debated. After the tragic death of Ian Mautner, south Florida is joining this debate.
The Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition is calling for more comprehensive studies to be done. They believe that Kratom poses a risk for abuse and addiction. However, the extent of that risk isn’t yet known.
Jeff Kadel, director of the PBCSAC, is quoted as saying “It basically alters your state of mind. There needs to be more science done.”
On the other side of the debate, there are Kratom supporters. Peter Isaacs works at a West Palm Beach Kratom & Kava bar. He’s a vocal advocate of keeping Kratom legal. “It’s not a mind-altering thing,” Isaacs is quoted as telling the Sun-Sentinel.
So, what’s the truth? Is Kratom a dangerous new drug or a natural plant that can produce mild psychoactive effects? I’m not sure. I’m not a scientist. I also got sober before Kratom was popular, so I have no first-hand knowledge of the drug.
However, I think it’s safe to say that something needs to be done. If young adults like Ian Mautner are dying as a result of Kratom, however small a role it may have played, there should be in-depth studies conducted. Let’s let scientists explore how dangerous Kratom is or isn’t. Only then will we be able to make an informed and smart decision about its legality.