GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - What you don't know could hurt your children. Right now, people in West Michigan are buying Kratom, and it's something you need to talk to your kids about.
Soothing and stimulating; Kratom users have described their experience as a seductive, legal high, and sellers say it is safe. You may not recognize the drug name. It could come in the form of a small package of crushed leaves, a pill your son or daughter left lying around, or a funny tea your friend handed you to drink.
What is it? It is on the Drug Enforcement Administration's "concern list."
"It was just kind of circumstance that you came in with your story... and all of a sudden, I get the bulletin that is dealing with it in Florida," Lt. Mike Anderson of the Michigan State Police Narcotics Team told WZZM 13 when we questioned him about Kratom.
"Usually you just put it in a capsule," said a user from Wyoming, who wanted to stay anonymous. He used it to treat his pain after a spinal surgery. "I'd absolutely recommend it... It blocks the pain, but you don't feel like what you feel with Vicodin."
No buzz, he says. No harm, no high, no hallucinations.
That's not quite the way it was described when WZZM 13's Hannah Saunders went undercover to a few Grand Rapids "head shops." They sold her enhanced Kratom pills and liquid extracts, saying it would act like opium and Vicodin. The sellers described the products as "the next big thing." It's a buzz some people are taking a step further, by mixing it with alcohol.
We had the products we bought tested at the Michigan State Police Narcotics lab. The results show that what we bought contained added chemicals, compared to the plain leaf our anonymous user was taking.
So where does Kratom come from? The only place it grows naturally is in southeast Asia. Some leafs are sold as is, some are shipped to processing plants in the United States, where chemists make resins, powders, liquids and pills. Then it is shipped here to West Michigan.
"We're always going to have illegal drugs here. We're always going to have that underground selling terrible things," said State Senator Rick Jones, (D) Grand Ledge, a watchdog for new concoctions like this. "You know, I haven't heard of that one (Kratom) yet."
Last year, he authored the so called "K2 bill," which is now law. That law allows the Department of Community Health to declare a substance illegal if it is found to be dangerous.
"These illegal drug makers don't care about health. They only care about making money," continued Jones. In the past, the process to ban a drug could have taken a year or more.
So right now, Kratom is not illegal in Michigan, but if you see a friend with it, or maybe your child has left it lying around, you should start asking questions.
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Kratom: The Next Big Drug