Drug Enforcement Agency plans crackdown as Kratom moves to Schedule 1

Posted at 11:29 PM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-03 02:29:38-04

A drug now easily available across the country is soon to become quite scarce.

The Drug Enforcement Agency plans a big crackdown Kratom, as the drug is reclassified as a Schedule I controlled substance--which would carry the same penalties as heroin.

Retailers have until the end of the month to get the drug off store shelves.

It’s a drug often marketed as an herbal supplement, sold in smoke shops and online. It is sold in several forms including pills, powder and liquids.

“[The] high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use for it in the United States makes it a schedule one,” said Arizona DEA chief Doug Coleman.

Supporters say it can relieve pain and even claim the drug can be a "cure for opiate addiction."

But the FDA says there isn't enough medical research to support those claims.

The DEA says emergency room visits involving Kratom increased one thousand percent in the past ten years. Also, 15 deaths have been tied directly to the drug in the past two years.

“For us, it's a concern, because we see the upward trend,” said Coleman. “We want to get ahead of it before the 15 deaths turn into 1,500 deaths.”

Once the month-long warning period is up, agents will start busting users and businesses.

“Possessing it, using it, distributing it can have the same consequences as if you were using heroin,” said Coleman.

Several organizations are fighting back, calling for supporters to march on Capitol Hill on September 13 to fight the DEA's decision.

Anyone who has the drug in their possession and wants to get rid of it can voluntarily surrender it. The DEA will take possess of the drug and dispose of it.