When a patient showed up in a West Coast emergency room early this month suffering withdrawal from something he called “kratom,” the psychiatrist on duty was forced to scramble for information. But when the doctor looked it up, she found that the opiate-like leaf from Southeast Asia is well known in the worlds of alternative medicine and the drug culture.
What the doctor, who asked not to be named for patient confidentiality reasons, found in an Internet search were Web pages set up by dozens of companies selling kratom leaf and touting it as a way to combat fatigue, pain and depression — even as an antidote to heroin addiction.
But in addition to its possible medicinal uses, kratom is beginning to show up in U.S. emergency rooms, with doctors saying they are dealing with people sick from taking it — especially teens who try it to get high.:
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