Four months before the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced plans to classify kratom, an herb sometimes found in dietary supplements, as a Schedule I drug, placing it under the same classification as heroin and LSD and deeming it illegal in the U.S., the Alabama Legislature outlawed the product in Alabama.
Alabama became one of a half dozen states “to recognize the seriousness of this problem,” and make kratom a scheduled controlled substance, Talladega County District Attorney Steve Giddens told The Daily Home.
In Alabama, the law officially covers the two active ingredients in kratom, mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine.
Alabama had already established laws that covered “anything that mimics a controlled substance. But you go in and change just one molecule, and it’s different from what had been banned,” Gibbins said. “I’ve heard stories of people who were hooked on hydrocodone that used this as a substitute.”
Kratom is a botanical substance that grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, where it is often used as a painkiller or mood enhancer. It is sold online and in some specialty retail stores in the U.S. and comes in various forms including powder, plant, capsules, liquids, gum/resin, and skin patches. In Alabama, it was most commonly found in Viva-Zen, a product packaged like an energy drink.
Because the effects of kratom mimic the euphoria of opioids, the product has a high abuse potential. And like opioids, people who abuse and misuse Kratom can overdose. The DEA is aware of 15 kratom-related deaths between 2014 and 2016.
Making kratom a Schedule I drug will place it in “watch” category among others that create psychological and/or physical dependence.