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Kratom substance concerns parents, drug awareness groups say it's addictive, dangerous and legal

Posted at 7:07 PM, Aug 05, 2013
and last updated 2014-12-05 12:54:49-05

Weeks away before the start of school and a new legal substance is emerging that many drug awareness agencies are investigating.

It is called Kratom, a natural substance that many teens are using to get high.

Drug experts insist it causes hallucinations, is addictive and they are shocked it is totally legal.

Parents like K.J. Foster of Boca Raton are concerned. Her son battled for years to fight a drug addiction.

"It was almost like he was never going to get better. And at one time I thought he was going to die," said Foster.

Foster said her son is clean now but she is always worried when new, legal substances emerge that many consider addictive.

"That little part of me wonders, 'is he going to relapse and what's going to happen if it's so readily available?' " questioned Foster.

Just as Palm Beach County, the State of Florida and the federal government banned K2 Spice, bath salts and other synthetic substances, the new substance has emerged.

"Through some of our patients, we kind of got word that there was this new thing out on the market," said George Stoupas of Sunset House Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Center.

Stoupas said since "spice" has disappeared, he has seen Kratom use skyrocket.

"It's easy to obtain, which makes it very convenient," said Stoupas.

Since it is not illegal, Stoupas said Kratom can be obtained at tobacco shops, convenience stores and kava bars.

"I think the idea right now is that because it's not banned, that it's supposed to be safe," said Stoupas.

Kratom is marketed as "all natural" but Stoupas said it has hidden dangers and can be as addictive as heroin.

Foster said she will be keeping an eye out as experience has shown her, vigilance is key.

"Your child can be exposed to one drug, that could take one dosage and be addicted within one hour. So it can happen literally overnight," said Foster.

The DEA said there have been no reports of any deaths related to Kratom, but the substance is on a watch list.