A state senate bill originally intended to prohibit the possession, use or sale of kratom — an herbal supplement used by some as a stimulant — has been amended to ban possession by those under 18.
DOVER — A state Senate bill originally intended to prohibit the possession, use or sale of kratom — an herbal supplement used by some as a stimulant — has been amended to ban possession by those under 18.
According to state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, the amendment was made to Senate Bill 540 after hearing testimony from people who claimed they had been helped by the substance.
“It’s a learning process for all of us,” Fuller Clark said. “People claimed they’d been helped by the substance, and that weighed heavily on our determination to not ban it for adults.”
According to Fuller Clark, the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee has sent the bill to the floor for a vote, which is expected to take place next week.
Fuller Clark said she introduced the bill after reading multiple articles about kratom earlier this year.
Kratom has not been approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. According to the FDA website, consumption of kratom can lead to a number of adverse health effects, including respiratory depression, nervousness, agitation, aggression, sleeplessness, hallucinations, delusions, tremors, loss of libido, constipation, skin hyperpigmentation, nausea, vomiting and severe withdrawal signs and symptoms.
Fuller Clark said a legislative committee will be set up to monitor the use of kratom and the FDA’s approach to regulating the herb.
“We might look at banning the sale of it in New Hampshire, but we didn’t want to be in a position to arrest users and send them to corrections,” Fuller Clark said. “We’re trying to move beyond that approach. We want to prevent any potential harm to potential users.”
According to Heather Sondrini, manager of Smoke Signals Pipe and Tobacco Shop in Dover, which sells kratom, about 40 people showed up to speak against the bill at a recent legislative hearing. Many believe the herb helps users deal with everyday minor aches and pains and can assist with drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Sondrini said the herb can be taken in capsule form or as an additive to tea. Sondrini said the drug is not smoked.
“It does not taste very good at all,” Sondrini said. “It’s awful.”
According to the Smoke Signals website, kratom should not be bracketed with so called “legal highs.”
“This is not some lab chemical with unknown outcomes,” the website states. “It is a plant product with pleasant effects and it should not be considered dubious or harmful. Like any consumed substance, it should be used in moderation, within individual tolerance.”
According to the website for Narconon, an organization that helps people with drug addictions, kratom has sent some people to emergency rooms and there have been calls to poison control centers in the U.S. Most of the adverse effects of the drug have been felt in Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand where it is heavily used.
Narconon.org stated that kratom can be abused for its sedative or stimulating effects. At low dosages, it is a stimulant, making a person more talkative, sociable and energetic. At higher dosages, it creates lethargy and euphoria. But the experience is not pleasant for every user.
Dr. Edward W. Boyer, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and a co-author of several scientific articles on kratom, recently told the “New York Times” that kratom is “a fascinating drug,” but that more needs to be learned about it.
“Recreationally or to self-treat opioid dependence, beware,” Boyer told the Times, “potentially you’re at just as much risk (as with an opiate).”
Kratom is widely available around the country, according to a recent “New York Times” article. Powdered forms of the leaf are sold at shops like Smoke Signals, gas-station convenience stores and on the Internet. Also, a number of kratom bars have opened in Colorado, New York and North Carolina. The herb is banned in Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming.
Sondrini said the heroin epidemic has led some to believe kratom is harmful and therefore should be banned. However, Sondrini said kratom can ease some of the withdrawal symptoms for those trying to break their addiction to illegal and deadly opioids.
“They feel like it’s part of the heroin problem, which it really isn’t,” Sondrini said. “People who are trying to get off heroin, they might not want to go through prescription meds, so it can help them. It won’t be a cure-all, but it will help them.”
Sondrini said kratom makes up a “huge percentage” of her store’s sales, but, she claims her interest in keeping the herb legal goes beyond financial reasons. She said she uses kratom on occasion in capsule form.
“I’ve heard people’s stories, and it can help with basic aches and pains,” Sondrini said. “It’s not just for heroin. It’s also for people who don’t want to take pain pills. There’s literally no (extra) chemicals in it. It’s a straight root.”