Herbal Supplement Kratom Target Of Lawsuits After String Of Deaths

Source: National Public Radio

Kavasutra is a dimly lit bar in Lantana, Florida. On a recent Friday night, there were about a dozen patrons drinking, flirting, swiping at their phones. What’s not here is booze — the bar serves only non-alcoholic botanical drinks. And one drink is clearly winning out: jumbo plastic cups filled with icy kratom tea.

Lit up by the red glow from his laptop screen, Niko Westley, 30, says kratom helps elevate his gaming skills. And Carlee Palermo, 25, keeps the kratom coming. She says she drinks the tea to help with a degenerative condition in her spine: “It completely took away my back pain.” She adds that many of the people who come to the bar are in recovery from substance abuse. Asked whether kratom helps with that, she says, “One hundred percent.”

Kratom, an herbal supplement, has been spurring debate in statehouses and courtrooms nationwide over how it should be classified and regulated. And there are dozens of wrongful death lawsuits that have been filed over the product and how it is marketed.

In low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant and a social lubricant that can help relieve aches and pains, depression, anxiety, and symptoms of opioid withdrawal. But at higher doses, it can produce an opioid-like euphoric state, linking it to addiction, seizures and death.

On Dec. 11, 2021, the 30-year-old son of Cindy Ross of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida was about to start a new job. But Cindy got a call from her ex-husband: “He said, ‘I need to tell you that Max is dead.'” He had collapsed while walking home. He’d had a few beers, at some point, a significant amount of kratom. The medical examiner determined that the combination killed him.

In Boynton Beach, Florida, Krystal Talavera, a 39-year-old nurse and mother of four, was found unconscious on the floor, according to a lawsuit. Beside her was a cup of coffee and an open packet of powder with the words “Space Dust” scrawled in black marker. It was a concentrated kratom extract. She’d ordered it off the internet from a company in Idaho. May, a federal judge ordered the vendor to pay more than $4.6 million in damages to Talavera’s family.

The firm of Atlanta attorney Matt Wetherington is partnering on dozens of other similar wrongful death lawsuits that accuse vendors of selling a dangerous product without proper warnings and instructions.

“When you’re selling a drug next to Skittles or energy drinks,” Wetherington says, “you have no means of knowing that you’re dealing with something that is exponentially more dangerous than anything else on the shelf.”

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Herbal Supplement Kratom Target Of Lawsuits After String Of Deaths - Part 2