Just about the only thing everyone agrees on is that kratom is a plant, a tropical evergreen tree that grows wild in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea. It’s a relative of the coffee tree. Within its native range, it’s been used for centuries (at least) as an herbal remedy, especially among day laborers who would chew the leaves for a mild stimulant effect. At the end of a hard day’s work, people might then brew the leaves into a tea, extracting different compounds purported to have a calming and pain-relieving effect.
As WIRED reports, by some scientists’ count, there are between 10 million and 15 million kratom users in the US alone. They are using the drug for everything from chronic pain relief to replacement for their morning coffee.
It is not an illicit substance; unless you live in one of the six states where kratom possession is criminalized, or are part of the US Army or Navy, which also banned the drug, kratom capsules, extracts, and teas are legal to buy and sell.
However, after finding kratom in the systems of dozens of people who have died of drug overdoses, the federal government has been considering a total ban.
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