UPDATE: 2/7/2018 Today, the Food and Drug Administration took a bold step saying Kratom is not just a plant, it’s an opioid.
FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the Agency based its decision on new scientific data that shows the main compounds in Kratom effect the body just like opioid.
The FDA warns taking Kratom can cause serious health problems, including seizures, respiratory depression and even death. The FDA raised the number of Kratom related deaths from 36 up to 44.
If the Drug Enforcement Agency agrees with the FDA that Kratom can be abused, is an addictive opioid then Kratom could be banned.
Kratom is a plant from Southeast Asia and its leaves are dried and crushed. You can steep it in tea or take it in a capsule form.
Some people say this herb helped them break their addiction to opiates, but on Tuesday, the government stepped up with a warning.
Kratom isn't an opioid, but it acts like one. It sort of tickles the opioid receptors in your brain. In low doses, it stimulates you. In high doses it sedates you.
The Kratom users we spoke to like Tim Davis swear by the product. Davis said Kratom helped him kick his addiction to prescription pain pills prescribed to him for back pain.
“It took all the pain away, it took all the feelings from the pills away, I felt like myself again,” said Davis.
But the addiction and medical experts WUSA9 spoke with said Kratom is addictive and can be dangerous.
So who's right?
Kratom is legal in most of the country but what about the federal agencies in charge of keeping dangerous drugs off the market? What do they have to say?
The Food and Drug Administration has been studying Kratom for three years trying to figure out if it's it addictive, if it can be abused and if it should be banned.
On Tuesday, the FDA wrapped up its study saying there's no evidence Kratom can help with opioid addiction, 36 deaths have been linked to it and that Kratom is addictive.
So what does all this mean?
Kratom is now in the hands of the Drug Enforcement Administration. It ranks drugs on a scale of one to five. Drugs in category one are really bad. They are drugs like heroin and LSD.
A drug in the DEA’s Category 5 would be something like a cough medicine that maybe has a little codeine in it.
If the FDA thinks Kratom is really bad, it could land on the DEA scale of controlled substances.
The FDA would not tell WUSA9 if it recommended the DEA classify Kratom as a controlled drug.
At the time of our report, the DEA said it was ware of the FDA's announcement but nothing formal has come through yet.
Today, the DEA told WUSA9, "DEA has received HHS's scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation for two constituents of Kratom. DEA is moving forward with its independent analysis of this and other data, as required by law in order to place a substance under control."
The American Kratom Association did not respond to WUSA9's request for a comment on Tuesday's move by the FDA.