Preview: The kratom controversy

Investigates

The sale of kratom is really taking off in South Dakota, but if you still aren’t familiar with it, you no doubt will be soon. Millions of people take the substance derived from the leaves of a plant from Southeast Asia, either in capsule or tea form for a variety of health reasons.

Proponents have a powerful lobby behind them; so powerful that when the DEA wanted to make kratom a schedule one drug, public outrage made the government agency change its mind.

A sign of the time: kratom sales are skyrocketing in the U.S.

While some states and cities still banned it, over concerns of it being addictive, misused and even deadly, South Dakota is not among them. While some states and cities still banned it, over concerns of it being addictive, misused and even deadly, South Dakota is not among them.

In August, KELOLAND News first brought you the story of a CDC report on overdose deaths linked to kratom and a local man, Myles Brawner, of Aberdeen, whose family says he overdosed on kratom, combined with prescription medication. Brawner lived, but suffered brain damage from the overdose.


We heard from kratom supporters across the nation who took issue with our report. Gavin Wigg, of Sioux Falls, was one of the few local users who contacted us.

“To Schedule 1 kratom I think is absolutely completely ridiculous, because I’ve been taking it for more than a decade now with no adverse effects,” Wigg said.

Wigg says he uses kratom to wake up in the morning and for headaches. The national lobbying group, The American Kratom Association, helped defeat a proposed ban in South Dakota in 2020.

Kennecke: It seems like a very well oiled machine. You’ve got $1.2 million, most of the money is spent in lobbying. You’ve got your kratom warriors, who are quick to jump on any type of legislation or reports about kratom that you may not see in a favorable light. Is that the main mission of the American Kratom Association–to serve the vendors–an economic one.
C. M. “Mac” Haddow, American Kratom Association: No, in fact, we don’t serve the vendors at all. We’re a consumer organization.

The American Kratom Association says pure, unadulterated kratom is never dangerous, but not everyone in the medical community agrees.

“There are two sides to every argument, but I would be very cautious–understand you can become dependent on it. Like any substance it’s going to depend on how long you use and how much you use it, what doses. There is no monitoring of this substance.”

Dr. Matt Stanley/Psychiatrist, Avera Addiction Care Center

In our KELOLAND News Investigation Wednesday at 10, we dive deeper into how kratom works, the FDA’s warning and how “Kratom Warriors” fought South Dakota’s legislation. Then on Thursday we speak with a Sioux Falls family, whose death of a loved one was ruled a “kratom overdose,” and why kratom supporters say that isn’t possible.


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