According to the CDC, kratom was found as a cause of death in 91 drug overdoses across 11 states between July 2016 and December 2017. That’s the most recent data available.

Kratom is often spiked or used with opioids. However, according to the CDC, kratom was the only substance found in seven of those 91 deaths.

The South Dakota Department of Health tells KELOLAND Investigates that kratom was the cause of three deaths so far in 2020, up from just one in 2019.

Tonight as our investigation into the kratom controversy continues, we hear from the family of a young man who died in July after using kratom.

27-year-old Jake Helmbrecht was a big guy who loved to make others laugh.

Jake Helmbrecht with his sister, brother and mother (seated)

He also struggled with alcoholism. Jake had completed treatment and was in sober living, when he turned to a new legal substance to try to ease his anxiety; kratom.

“Hey it’s a natural, like Vitamin C, or whatever, I’ll be able to take this, I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a supplement,” Jake’s brother, Brian Helmbrecht, said.

On July 26th, Jake was found dead in the sober living home where he was staying. His family waited for the coroner’s report to find out what killed him.

“We were just on the edge of our seats, waiting to see what happened, because everyone in the sober living house said he was doing great,” Jake’s mother, Lynette Gussiaas, said.

According to his pathology report, Jake died from an accidental kratom overdose, or Mitragynine toxicity.

“I just want to get his story out so that nobody else has to go what we’re going through with such a senseless death. I know he never would have taken this if he knew that it would kill him,” Jake’s sister, Melissa Morton, said.

Kratom has a lot of public support and the lobbying group, The American Kratom Association, claims that medical examiners who say kratom is the cause of any death are getting it wrong.
We will have that part of the story, plus what Jake’s family wants to see happen now, Thursday at ten, during the final part of our investigation into the kratom controversy.