MIAMI - The Drug Enforcement Agency is keeping a close eye on kratom, a type of herbal remedy that can act as a psychostimulant when taken in higher doses.
Ted Inserra, who spends most of his day working in a restaurant, uses kratom as a painkiller.
"My knees, my ankles, my wrist. Aspirin and aspirin all day long," said Inserra. "It just kind of keeps you energized, keeps you focused."
Inserra said the natural remedy works.
"Taken in smaller doses, in regular doses, I find it to be perfectly fine," said Inserra.
Kratom is labeled as an alternative medicine, as a pain killer, as a sedative, and even as a dietary supplement. The plant it comes from grows in Southeast Asia.
When broken down, kratom can be smoked, swallowed, or sipped. According to the DEA, workers used it as a stimulant while others used it as a substitute for opium.
But the drug, in higher doses, can act as a psychostimulant. The DEA says it is often used in tea.
"The way they are packaging these, it's very appealing to young people," said DEA special agent Mia Ro.
Kratom can be found in convenience stores and head shops. It is legal in the United States. The DEA classifies it as a drug of concern.
"I can't stress enough that these are not regulated," said Ro.
Kratom is also used in rehabilitation clinics to treat people addicted to heroin and opium.
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