It didn't take long for Palm Beach County Commissioners to decide they want to know more about Kratom.
The leafy green substance is raising new red flags in the county after family members blame Kratom for the suicide of a 20-year Boynton Beach man this summer.
“It certainly struck a chord in South County where this happened, parents are concerned and would like to see a further review of the effects of Kratom,” said Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams.
Wesley Todd distributes, manufactures and markets Kratom around the world. He attended Tuesday morning’s Commission meeting to learn what, if any, restrictions Commissioners might consider. Todd says his client list includes people who get off pain pills.
“It's an herb that's changed a lot of lives and it really works,” Todd says.
While Commissioners spend the near future investigating the legal plant based herb, one local man, who wants to remain anonymous because of the stigma associated with Kratom, is sharing his past about the substance prompting widespread debate.
“It truly has helped me lead a better life,” he told the Contact 5 Investigators. “The public is only hearing one side of the story, they’re hearing Kratom, bath salts and synthetic marijuana in the same story when there's no similarities,” he said.
After years of battling anxiety and alcohol, he says Kratom was a natural healer.
“While taking it I noticed I didn't want to drink anymore and that's huge,” he said.
Its calming effects, he explained, felt immediately.
“For 3 years I haven't had a drink,” he said.
But despite his own support for Kratom, he also acknowledges the need for regulation.
The herb once found only in kava bars is now popping up in places, he says, that can pose dangers.
“Anybody can package something up call it Kratom and sell it at a gas station or a head shop that's where it needs to stop,” he said.
Doctors have sounded the alarm about Kratom's addictive qualities. Dr. Raul Rodriguez of the Delray Center for Healing explained to the Contact 5 Investigators the similarities between Kratom and harder opiates.
“It doesn’t have the same obvious high as, let’s say, heroin. However, when you go to stop it your body has pretty much the same physical dependence as if you were on heroin and the detox is really as difficult as if you were coming off on heroin,” he said.
“I choose to take it everyday because it alleviates my symptoms. There are things out there that really require commissioners to get off streets and Kratom isn't one of them. It helps,” said the man now touting the benefits of Kratom.
It could take weeks before Palm Beach County Commissioners are ready to talk about Kratom again.
While a ban is unlikely, commissioners say, possible regulation could include age restrictions and warning labels.
Currently, Sarasota county is the only county in Florida to ban Kratom.