Dangerous drug banned in 6 states, on the rise in SWFL

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A dangerous drug called Kratom has already been banned in six states, and local drug experts hope Florida will soon make it illegal.

Kratom looks like a form of synthetic marijuana but has effects similar to heroin.

“Kratom touches the same parts of the brain that heroin does, as any opiate does, and in fact people use it to get off of heroin because it eases the effects of the withdrawals,” Brandon Short, a psychiatrist at White Sands Treatment Center said.

Short says within the last year he has seen about 100 patients.

“There are bars in our areas in Florida where they do sell this as a retail item. It’s certainly frowned upon in Lee County.”

Kratom is now a Schedule 1 drug in Alabama, Wisconsin, Vermont, Tennessee, Indiana and Arkansas, the same classification as heroin and ecstasy. Short says there have already been meetings about making Kratom illegal in the state of Florida.

“There was many people that were proponents of Kratom, but there’s a lot more opponents to Kratom because of the effects it can have.”

Proponents say Kratom is a natural painkiller than can also combat fatigue and reduce depression and anxiety. However, Short says some of the side effects can be extremely serious.

“Central nervous system depression, it can cause seizures, it can cause psychosis,” Short explained. “A lot of visual disturbances and even audio/visual disturbances known as hallucinations.”

Short says some users in Lee County admitted to getting Kratom from distributors in Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, and Broward County.

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