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Controversial drug used to help addicts get clean to no longer be sold over-the-counter

It's been sold in supplement stores around the country, but now a controversial product often used to kick heroin, kratom, will no longer be a legal substance. (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - It's been sold in supplement stores around the country, but now a controversial product often used to kick heroin, kratom, will no longer be a legal substance.

Kratom is right now a legal supplement that at the end of September will no longer be available over-the-counter.

Two mothers who shared their concerns about the supplement say this is a victory, and experts with Cincinnati Children's Hospital's Poison Information Center say it can cause serious complications.

Michelle Collinsworth and Mindy Baird have both supported legislation for better regulation of kratom. Their daughters have both struggled with heroin addiction.

"Her addiction has been going on about seven years," said Collinsworth.

"I had never heard of it before, and apparently it's pretty wide known," Baird said.

This week, these moms got their wish.

Kratom, which comes from an Asian plant, will soon no longer be sold as an over-the-counter supplement.

The National Product Association, a non-government group that represents those who manufacture and sell supplements, told us by Skype it will soon no longer be a legal substance.

"They want to schedule it--DEA wants to schedule it as a level-one substance, which is the same as thing like heroin or cocaine--illicit street drugs. They want to do that because it appears to have some addictive properties," said Dr. Daniel Fabricant.

Those addictive properties can cause serious side effects, according to Dr. Robert Goetz, a toxicologist. According to him, kratom can cause seizures and possibly comas.

As Goetz's graph shows, the number of calls due to kratom complications has gone up tenfold in poison information centers in the past five years.

"People have used it to avoid withdrawal symptoms from opioids or heroin, and they also use it to pass a urine drug screen. The active components don't show up on urine drug screens," said Goetz.

"We don't think it's appropriate as a supplement; we have a huge addiction problem with opiates in this country, and if it demonstrates similar type behaviors, it should be a controlled substance just like those products," said Fabricant.

Susan ash with the American Kratom Association points out most people use the product responsibly. They are generally in their 40s, 50s and 60s, and use it as a less-addictive choice for combating pain.

You can see the the association's full response to the decision here.


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