'Legal Psychoactive' Drug Concerns NC Lawmakers, Health Officials

Jun 28, 2016
Originally published on June 30, 2016 3:13 pm

A drug advertised as a “legal psychoactive” would be off limits to minors in North Carolina under legislation nearing final approval in the General Assembly.

The herbal drug known as kratom is commonly sold in head shops and online. It comes in leaf or powder form, often with colorful packaging, and is sometimes made into teas.  And, it acts as a powerful sedative or stimulant, depending on dosage.

"There are cases of patients having seizures after an overdose, and there are cases of patients going into withdrawal," says Anna Dulaney, a toxicologist with the Carolinas Poison Control Center in Charlotte.  She adds that if a heavy kratom user stops using the supplement abruptly, withdrawal symptoms can be similar to those experienced when withdrawing from opioids such as heroin or morphine.  

Dulaney says the Poison Control Center has handled 17 cases involving kratom since 2013, mostly among older teenagers and young adults. The NC Senate approved a bill Friday that bans its sale to anyone under 18.  Senate and House lawmakers are near agreement on final legislation.

Kratom comes from Southeast Asia, where it’s long been used as an energy booster and pain reliever. In the U.S., marketing of the drug is not regulated as a controlled substance by the Food and Drug Administration. Dulaney says that means there are no official safety standards for its use. The North Carolina bill also calls for more research on the effects of kratom, to see if stronger legislation is needed.

More about kratom:   Read the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration evaluation of kratom.

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