Is Kratom quickly becoming a legal addiction?

DEA, FDLE investigating new drug popular with teens

ORLANDO, Fla. - Parents, listen up--there's a drug out there that you probably haven't heard of before but it could leave your kids addicted.

It's called Kratom, and investigators say it's the talk of social networking sites. In fact, drug agents say Kratom may be the next big thing, now that K2, Spice, and bath salts are all banned.

Local 6's undercover search for Kratom in Central Florida landed packets of the stuff, ranging in price from $15 to $50.

One employee at a head shop in Orlando told us it's selling like hot cakes. YouTube testimonials suggest it's hot because it gets you high.

"It's very euphoric and relaxing, I like it a lot actually," said one user on YouTube.

"I like to take it a lot, but it's more of like a mental addiction," said another user.

It takes less than five minutes to brew as a tea, smoke like a cigarette, or pop a capsule, like the ones we found in local head shops.

We spoke to Special Agent David Gross with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who's investigating Kratom.

"It's a drug of concern, it's one that we are actively looking at," says Gross.

He adds that crime labs across the state are looking at Kratom, trying to figure out if this legal drug is really a legal high with consequences.

"The way they are packaging these it's very appealing to young people," says Special Agent Mia Ro with the Drug Enforcement Administration, another agency that is investigating the drug.

The DEA concedes that Kratom has been around for thousands of years. It's grown in Southeast Asia, but it's only recently caught on in the U.S., mainly as an all-natural painkiller that claims to have no chemical additives.

"It could wind up killing a child, or blowing a child's mind forever," says State Senator A.G. Crowe, a Republican from Louisiana.

He didn't want it sold to kids in his state.

"I don't think the parents knew what it was, except that they knew something wasn't right," says Crowe.

Crowe sponsored the first law in the country last year that bans the sale of Kratom to minors.In an exclusive interview, Crowe said he's afraid that kids could make a fatal mistake.

"There were instances where kids went to the emergency room, and nobody knew what was going on with them," says Crowe.

The latest research backs that up. Doctors at the University of Mississippi tested random samples of Kratom, finding some of it was laced with powerful painkillers, like Hydrocodone and morphine.

But, that same research also found that Kratom can ease pain, especially for heroin addicts in withdrawal.

Still, the critics and law enforcement say the risk outweighs the benefits.

"I can't stress enough that these are not regulated or monitored by any U.S. agency, so they have no idea what they're putting in to their body," says Special Agent Mia Ro with the DEA, which calls Kratom a drug of concern.

The drug effects you differently, based on how much you use. A small dose will speed you up, almost like caffeine. While a larger dose is numbing, like a painkiller, and will almost put you in a stupor, and give you a euphoric effect.

Local doctors say, there's a lot of uncertainty with the drug.

"You don't know what you're getting, you don't know the concentration, you don't necessarily know the dose, nor do you know what it's necessarily mixed with," says Dr. Josef Thundiyil, a medical toxicologist at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

He says the big danger is that Kratom can be addicting, and some people are actually afraid to stop using the drug.

"Some people who use it regularly say the reason they haven't stopped using it is because the withdrawal symptoms have been so intense," says Dr. Thundiyil.

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