A Jupiter couple is suing the Purple Lotus Kava Bar in West Palm Beach because they claim they've gotten addicted to their specialty drinks. The reason they're addicted, they say, is because of a special ingredient in the drinks called kratom, which is actually an opium substitute.
Kratom is from the coffee family and is used in places like Southeast Asia for medicinal purposes, as well as mood enhancers and health problems.
Erica Siegel, 39, began hitting up the Purple Lotus two years ago and started pounding down drinks called the Komodo and the Head Mod.
The bar is located near Erica's husband Michael's office, so he soon joined her. They made the Purple Lotus their drinking hangout. But soon, they realized they began to get addicted to the drinks, their attorney says.
Their attorney says the couple is looking to warn others about the bar and its kratom-laced drinks. They're also seeking to get back the thousands of dollars they spent at the joint for the past two years.
Although the DEA is keeping a close eye on kratom and its effects, the stuff is not illegal. While there have been a growing number of people seeking treatment for addiction to it, it's not considered a controlled substance. So what the bar is doing is fine.
The bar's owner, Jim Scianno, calls it an alternative health drink:
"It's just an alternative, something healthy and safe to take the edge off," he said. "It's the nemesis of coffee."
While caffeine cranks you up, he said, kratom and its sister compound, kava, promote relaxation. Kava is a shrub native to islands in the South Pacific, while kratom is a tree that grows in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. But their chemical compounds and effects are the same.
"I don't see anything toxic about it," Scianno said. "I'm not seeing emergency rooms fill up."
Scianno says he wants to avoid putting up signs warning people that kratom might be addictive, but he has posted a warning on the bar's Facebook page. The warning is basically something someone should heed with any alcoholic beverage: Take it easy.
Having too much kratom drinks can cause stupor, nausea, and loss of muscle control.
(Sounds fun, actually!)
"If too much Kava has been drunk and you feel uneasy, please don't drive," Scianno writes on the Facebook page.