By Mark Ackerman

DENVER (CBS4)– The Drug Enforcement Agency is expected to ban a drug that’s been growing in popularity in Colorado on Friday. The DEA will classify kratom as a Schedule I drug on par with marijuana and heroin.

In a statement, the DEA called kratom an “imminent threat” and said the agency was aware of 15 kratom-related deaths over the past three years.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

After the DEA labeled kratom an “imminent threat” the Denver’s Department of Environmental Health forced 15 businesses to pull kratom from the shelves at local stores. Some were ordered to issue recalls on kratom products.

Kratom comes from a tropical tree in Southeast Asia. It is sold in various forms including powders, capsules and in liquid form and can give users a euphoric effect when consumed.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Last week, kratom users gathered in front of the state Capitol in Denver demanding the DEA reconsider its decision to ban kratom. Many of the protestors said kratom saved their lives by helping them get off prescription pain pills. One woman said she was taking such pills for a back injury, under the care of a doctor.

“I was sitting at home and because opiates weren’t working and thought I should try heroin,” the woman said.

Instead of turning to illegal drugs, the woman turned to kratom and said she’s kicked a 10-year opiate addiction.

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Liz Elliott handed out free kratom samples at the event. She said she uses kratom as a tea every morning instead of other drugs.

She says the impending kratom ban is “just devastating to me” and the drug has “really been a lifesaver.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

But the DEA says U.S. poison centers have received 660 calls about kratom exposure. Seven cases have been reported to poison centers in Colorado this year, with moderate complications.

Amy Lowe, an addictions counselor at the Arapahoe House rehab centers, says she’s treated patients addicted to kratom.

“The ingredient kratom is unpredictable and can be dangerous,” she said kratom often acts as a placeholder for other drugs and withdrawal from kratom can be just as difficult as heroin.

“It is harmful because it keeps the addiction and the symptoms going and alive.” Lowe said in the short-term, a kratom ban could be really hard on users, unless they get treatment.

“I can’t imagine living and not having kratom in my life,“ said Elliott. “It’s going to take me back to find other things to cope, which will probably kill me.”


Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark

Comments (7)
  1. I don’t care what anyone says Kratom has helped me soon much with my fibromialga😊

  2. Hello, i work for the Support Mitra Foundation in Sumatra, we have produced a 3 minute video. Defining Mitragyna speciosa is a traditional medicine & question the motives behind changing its legal status.

    If you intend to publish any more articles, you have the right to reference any content or material from it. If you wish to share any feedback regarding the video, i would appreciate your response.


  3. Cocaine, Meth, Fentanyl, are all schedule 2 drugs. Of course a drug that doesn’t kill anyone will be classified as more dangerous. Of course, just look at Marijuana.

    Here is a short list of drugs considered by the DEA to be “less dangerous” with more “medicinal value” than both Kratom and Cannabis:
    Hydrocodone (Vicodin), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl (50x stronger than heroin), Dexedrine, Adderall, Ritalin, Tylenol with morphine/codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone, Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, Tramadol, Robitussin AC, Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectolin

    Do the math. This schedule isn’t going to help anyone

  4. The DEA with drugs are like grandparents operating computers. They dont know how they work, or how to work them, but they think they know everything about them and all the evils they cause anyways.

  5. AJinFLA says:

    I thing there are millions of death to cigarettes?
    45 years old, Navy Veteran, multiple knee surgeries…. I take a cup of Kratom tea every day before I run 3 miles. Far superior to any prescription pain medication. Don’t tell me their is no medical use, I have been using it for almost 5 years.

  6. Joe Volpe says:

    Please stop the Kratom ban.I am a 57 year old educator that has been able to completely stop using oxycodone and a myriad of other prescribed OPIATE painkillers thanks to the responsible use of Kratom tea which has none of the bad side effects and IS NOT an Opiate.. Why do our Senators and Congressman allow the DEA and the FDA and the Justice Dept to bring such harm to our health?

  7. Kevin Francis says:

    Cocaine is schedule 2.

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