Kratom, an herb found in Southeast Asia and banned in Thailand, Australia, Myanmar, Malaysia, and recently Indiana and Tennessee, is often used in a drink called kava here in Florida -- where it is not banned.
Not yet, anyway.
But now, Palm Beach County is considering banning kratom. This is because kratom is considered highly addictive by many and has supposedly been tied to several deaths and multiple emerency-room visits across the country since it was introduced to the U.S. as a sort of pick-me-up coffee substitute.
Some are concerned kratom is slowing becoming the next bath salts or synthetic marijuana, while others swear it's harmless.
Kratom is from the coffee family and is used in places like Southeast Asia for medicinal purposes and as a mood enhancer. It's considered to be an opiate substitute and, if some studies are to be believed, is very addictive.
Although the DEA is keeping a close eye on kratom and its effects, the stuff is not illegal in the U.S. And though there has been a growing number of people seeking treatment for addiction to it, it's not considered a controlled substance.
Yet, according to the Sun Sentinel, kratom is being blamed for the recent death of a 20-year-old Boynton Beach man named Ian Mautner, who leapt to his death from the SW 23rd Avenue I-95 overpass.
Mautner's mother says he was addicted to kratom.
While Mautner's toxicology and medical examination reports have yet to be concluded, the incident seemed to be the last straw for the Palm Beach County Commission, which, on Tuesday, called for an investigation of the ingredient offered at local kava bars.
In 2013, New Times reported on a Jupiter couple who sued a West Palm Beach kava bar because they claimed they became addicted to the kratom-laced drinks served there.
According to Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, the findings to Mautner's death will determine whether the county will pursue an all-out ban of kratom.
Meanwhile, the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition says more studies need to be done on kratom over concerns it poses a risk.
The Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition, created to help stamp out drug and alcohol abuse, has concerns that Kratom may pose a risk.
"It basically alters your state of mind," the coalition's executive director, Jeff Kadel, said via the Sentinel. "There needs to be more science done."
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