With prescription drugs now the leading cause of death by overdose, some users are escaping the potentially deadly cycle by turning to a natural plant for relief. And they say it's working.
But tomorrow, the DEA could pull that plant from store shelves.
Kratom is a widely used medicinal plant, that if it were up to the government, would be banned for sale in the U.S.
It would also be labeled a Schedule I drug, right next to heroine and marijuana, according to the U.S. Controlled Substances act.
For people once addicted to opioids, many of them claim Kratom keeps them alive and their lives on track.
At 26, Catie Houston says the natural herb Kratom has changed her life. She was hooked on opioids for years. Prescription drugs were her doctor’ answer to getting her off of them. But when her insurance ran out, she admitted those drugs helped, but the itch that can't be scratched with addiction was always there. The discovery of Kratom, a plant, changed all that for Houston.
"It’s been a godsend really,” Houston said. “I never would have expected something so simple and natural to help so much. It gives me energy where I had none before. It helps me focus where I couldn't. It eases the anxiety that comes with the acute side effects of opiate addiction.”
Likely customers are suffering from ailments like PTSD, anxiety or depression.
The plant effects are described as euphoric, relaxing and pain relieving. For some Kratom gives them energy. And it's cheap. You don't smoke it, you ingest it.
On the shelves of stores you find it as a leaf and as a powder. But come Friday, you may not be able to find it at all. Because the DEA has threatened to pull this natural "supplement" as its often called and ban the sales in the U.S. completely.
The shop CBD Kratom in Chicago has been selling the stuff only since July. Now 65% of its business is expected to evaporate and the owner will be changing the name on the door to "Hemp Farm" instead.
Store employees are worried for their business and their customers who have found Kratom so helpful.
The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University agrees saying to make Kratom illegal seems like a rush to judgment. It can also create a black market for Kratom customers or sending addicts back to where they started.
The FDA doesn't regulate it and if the DEA makes it a Schedule I drug, no one will be able to research it either.
The FDA says Kratom, which is grown in Southeast Asia, poses a risk to public health and has the potential for abuse.
The DEA believes Kratom is a highly addictive drug citing 15 Kratom related deaths worldwide since 2014. The agency also says a record amount of Kratom is coming into the U.S.
Until now, you only had to be 18 to purchase Kratom in a store or online. There were no limits on how much you could buy. Now people are buying it in bulk and asking how long they can store it without it going bad.
100,000 signatures are on a petition to stop the DEA from banning Kratom right now.
When the DEA will officially make it illegal is up to them. It could happen at any time starting tomorrow.