Kratom: A drug to cure a different addiction?

Image 1 of 8

A legal drug from Southeast Asia is gaining popularity in the Charlotte region. 

Kratom is a drug that can be taken in powder form, pill form -- even as a face cream application. Some users say it helps with pain, while others say it simply makes them "feel good."

Imperial Kratom is a Charlotte-based company that mainly markets the drug with signs off to the side of the road and sells it out of their home. They also sell wholesale to a number of local businesses. While they believe the drug is beneficial for recreation and a number of ailments -- they say their top success stories come from treating heroin and opiate addicts.

"This will take away those awful, awful withdrawals and help you become a functioning member of society," owner Clara Plummer said.

Plummer said her business has helped roughly 50-of-110 heroin/opiate addicts they've seen stay clean from their addictions by substituting kratom since 2012.

We spoke to one, who wished not to be named, who said kratom is a "life-saving herb."

"I was either going to the grave or I was getting out of it (the opiate lifestyle) ," the user said. "I was at the end of my rope, honestly, there was nothing left of where I could think of to go for help. And honestly, that's when I started using it regularly."

This user said kratom has kept him clean from a 15-year addiction to oxycontin. He said he has been off oxy for four months and has no desire to go back.

Some users said kratom mimics the effect of some opiates on a much lighter level.

Still, some say this is just substituting one drug for another -- while there are still plenty of unknowns surrounding kratom.

"There is no miracle to curing drug addiction," drug counselor Robert E. Martin said.

The Food and Drug Administration has raised "serious concerns surrounding the toxicity of kratom."

Charlotte's Poison Control reported six overdoses of kratom in 2015 compared to zero in 2014. They said overdose symptoms included depression, nausea and one case of a coma -- but each patient was able to fully recover.

No seizures were reported in Charlotte from kratom, which is a side effect that has been mentioned online.

While there is a lot of debate surrounding kratom -- an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is working on a kratom study that may be finished around Spring 2016. We plan on following up with their findings when they come out.