Local woman says soon-to-be illegal drug saved her life

By Sept. 30, kratom will be an illegal drug, and it’s in communities in the Local 6 region.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says the decision came because kratom causes a high, can be addictive, and doesn’t have a medical use at this time. As a Schedule 1 drug, it will be on the list with heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana.

It’s made in southeast Asia and comes from the plant Mitragyna Speciosa. It comes in many forms, including powder and pills. There is a large sales presence online, but I spoke to Crystal Helene who says she gets it locally and says kratom saved her life.

Helene’s life has been an exciting one. She began modeling in 1997 and was even part of a national runway in Chicago. “That was my childhood dream,” she said. Helene has also lived a life that required a lot of strength. Her pain began with a tumor in 2004 and a fall that left her bedridden for three months in 2006. In 2008, her grandmother and husband died.

The next year, Helene was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and she says she endured adverse effects from Lyrica. She says her entire body hurt. “To take that away from me when I’ve always been that way — entrepreneur, business like, go-getter, grinder, perfectionist — then it messes with your mind,” Helene told me. She added that: “regular work that you do on a daily basis takes double, triple, the time for me.”

The fibromyalgia, along with a neck surgery and degenerative joint disease, led Helene to a slew of prescribed narcotic medicines. She says mistreatment as a result of her need for pain medication along with lingering pain made her feel like she didn’t want to go on anymore.

In January, she tried kratom. She says that helped her get out of bed.

But, the DEA says it’s a public hazard, and as soon as Sept. 30th, you will be breaking a federal law if you buy, sell, or own kratom. The DEA also says no conclusive research shows a medicinal advantage.

Helene says kratom gave her dignity, and people don’t treat her like a pill popper. “Yes, I’m worried. I don’t want to be treated like that,” she said.

Detective Matt Carter with the McCracken County Sheriff’s Department says they’ll treat this like any other drug. As soon as it’s considered a Schedule 1 drug, they will enforce it.

Will kratom be a felony or misdemeanor? Carter says it depends. With marijuana, it depends on the quantity a person has on them. With this scheduling being relatively new, they’re waiting to find that out from the federal government.

The DEA says the scheduling is unstoppable at this point. It will last for two years, with an option to extend for an addition year. Then, kratom will either be permanently on the Schedule 1 list or be removed completely.

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