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Local Kratom users disagree with new FDA warnings

Local Kratom users disagree with new FDA warnings (WHAM PHOTO)

ROCHESTER -- The FDA released findings on Tuesday that suggest an herbal supplement promoted as an alternative pain remedy contains the same chemicals found in opioids.

Kratom is drawn from a plant and has become increasingly popular for recovering opioid addicts looking to ween themselves off of painkillers.

Rob Brockler, owner of the Kratom Shop on Monroe Avenue, says it helped him break his drug habit so much that he opened the shop in December to help others.

"It's a unique plant that deserves to remain legal," Brockler said.

FDA scientists revealed that the 25 most common chemicals in Kratom behave like compounds found in opioids.

Kratom is banned in at least five states in the United States.

"It was green Kratom that I started with," said Emily Szarak, a user of the supplement. "That has been a lifesaver. I feel like a human again."

Szarak told 13WHAM that she is trying to have a baby and turned to Kratom after years of taking prescription pills to treat chronic pain.

"With the physical pains of getting off of medications, [Kratom] helps tremendously with that," Szarak said. "Your bones ache sometimes. Kratom helps with that."

Brendon Kuchinick, of Victor, has spent eight months out of rehab.

"After rehab, I took half a spoonful of Kratom," Kuchinick said. "I felt motivated to do things that I slept the entire night."

Kratom is legal under federal law but after the FDA's findings, the DEA will now have to decide if Kratom should be in the same category as heroin and LSD.

Retired Monroe County Forensic Scientist Jim Wesley says he'd like to see more data before any decisions are made.

"I think as a minimum, you should be 21 years or over to buy it," Wesley said. "I would like to see some information on how its used. I think right now, it is really up in the air.

The FDA says its identified 44 reports of death involving Kratom since 2011. Critics say the research is flawed, noting that some of those victims mix Kratom with other drugs.

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