City considers ban on Kratom after nearly dozen overdoses involving product

Published 6:42 am Thursday, May 9, 2019

During Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting a ordinance to ban a synthetic product known as Kratom was proposed by the Oxford Police. Interim chief Jeff McCutchen spoke to the Board and presented a first reading of the proposed ordinance.

Mitragyna speciosa, or more commonly known as Kratom, is a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family that is indigenous to Southeast Asia, specifically to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea. It is used in traditional medicines since the nineteenth century, if not before, but Kratom also had opiod properties and some stimulant-like effects.

Last fall the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classify the chemicals found in Kratom as a Schedule 1 substance, meaning the chemicals have a ‘high potential for abuse’ and there is not an accepted medical use for them. Locally in north Mississippi there have been 11 deaths where Kratom was found in blood tests during autopsies. The HHS also noted those chemicals would make the herbal supplement as illegal as heroine or LSD.

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“We had 11 overdoses where Kratom was involved,” McCutchen told the Board. “It doesn’t mean it was the primary cause but it was involved.”

McCutchen noted OPD worked a death case recently where Kratom was found in the victim’s system.

Kratom is currently available in any store that chooses to sell it and can come in different forms, including as a pill or a liquid. The product also goes by other names such as Krathom, Kakuam, Ketum, Kratum and others.

During the first reading Alderman Mark Huelse asked if he could speak with McCutchen at a later date regarding Kratom. Huelse said he is friends with Christopher McCurdy, a former Ole Miss professor, who is an expert on Kratom and the use of it to treat those who are withdrawing from opiod abuse.

The proposed ban would only be for the synthetic products being sold locally in stores. It reads that anyone who uses, purchases, possesses, distributes, sale or offering for sale of synthetic cocaine, other synthetic products or Kratom is prohibited.

Itawamba, Union, Monroe, Lowndes, Alcorn and Tishomingo Counties have all banned Kratom. Fulton, New Albany, Mantachie and Pontontoc have also banned the product. A second reading and hearing on the issue will take place during the May 21 meeting.