LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Federal Drug Administration is keeping a close eye on the herbal substance, kratom. Most recently, The FDA issued a mandatory recall for all products containing kratom that were made by Triangle Phamanaturals, which carries more than twenty brands under it's umbrella. The FDA claims Salmonella was found in several of its kratom products.
"This product has been used for decades," Eduardo Brambila with the Kratom Trade Association told WKYT's Miranda Combs. "It's actually been used for centuries in other countries. We have a good track record showing the safety of this product."
But why is the federal government showing increased scrutiny over it? Brambila could not provide a definitive answer.
"That's exactly the kind of questions we are posing and we want to clarify, as well.," Brambila said.
At least three million people in America use kratom. They came out by the thousands a few years ago when the Drug Enforcement Agency tried to make kratom a Schedule I drug, putting in a category with drugs like heroin and morphine.
"Over 33,000 comments that they (DEA) received in a 30-day period," Brambila explained. The DEA reversed their decision, in an unprecedented move.
Branbila believes the DEA's retreat eventually led to the beginning of the Food and Drug Administration's increased scrutiny.
"The overreach that have been used for this particular product fro the FDA is definitely of concern," Brambila says. "I definitely say there is a serious bias for this product right now. The FDA is coming up with a lot of information that may not represent the product as accurately as it could be presented."
He and other kratom supporters argue kratom is literally a life-changing organic substance. WKYT spoke with Rebecca Patrick-Howard in February who said her life is worth living again because of kratom. She suffers from chronic pain because of a life-long disease. She mixes kratom powder into a tea several times a day. "People don't use kratom for the euphoria effect of it. It's just not there," she advocated.
The FDA disagrees and said in multiple press releases that there are reports of deaths associated with kratom. The federal government believes kratom affects the same opioid receptors in the brain as morphine, and it is just as addictive. Three men WKYT interviewed last month at the Isaiah House Recovery Center agree. One man said he was "heavily addicted to kratom" and spending $60 a day to have it.
WKYT told Brambila about the men in rehab, and he believes it's important to look at their cases.
"If anyone's having effects that are of concern we definitely want to know about this and figure out what the whole story is," he replied.
Brambila believes the kratom debate shows why some regulation could provide benefits for both sides.
"When you have regulation, it means there's been some testing done, it means there's an understanding of how a product is best used. It also sets standards and quality assurance for the consumer which is the upmost importance."