Cocktails & Spirits

Lawsuit Claims Addiction to Purple Lotus Kava Bar's Kratom-Laced Drink

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Kava is an ancient Fijian infusion made from the roots of the kava plant. A taste combination somewhere between muddy water and soap, kava -- plainly put -- doesn't taste good. Yet the people of the South Pacific hold to its sacred powers. It's supposedly mind-altering and slows the processing of dopamine. It definitely numbs the tongue on first sip.

Kratom too is from the South Pacific, but that's the only intrinsic similarity between both plants. Kratom comes from the coffee family, kava from the pepper root. Kratom is an opiate substitute and, allegedly, extremely addictive. Kava isn't. And it's kratom that is slowly becoming illegal around the nation, not kava.

There are those who swear kratom is harmless, but it was a kratom-laced kava drink that Erica Siegel had at Purple Lotus almost two years ago that allegedly provoked her addiction.

Michael and Erica Siegel are from West Palm Beach. They have been married for eight years and have a 2-year-old daughter. Five years ago, Erica battled an alcohol addiction. She eventually sobered up. Two years later, a friend of theirs, a yoga instructor at Purple Lotus Kava Bar, told the recovering alcoholic about kava.

"My wife suffers from anxiety, and she tried doing yoga and other more holistic approaches than doing pharmaceuticals to combat her anxiety. There was a discussion about kava, and my wife decided to give it a try."

Michael then explained that his wife sat at the bar, looked up on the drink board, and ordered the first thing on the menu: the komodo.

"She looked at a drink board that lists a variety of different drinks not knowing what was in them," Michael stresses. "The ingredients are not being listed; they are not being disclosed. So my wife ordered a komodo... At the time, we didn't know there was any kratom in it or what kratom even was.

"The person behind the bar said it gives you a feeling of calmness and a burst of energy and a euphoric passion. He described it in a way where, who wouldn't want to take it?"

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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson