Opioid-mimicking substance becomes popular in Chattanooga area
While the Trump administration tries to curb opioid abuse across the country, officials say people in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area are experimenting with a substance that mimics them.
Kratom can be purchased legally in Georgia. However, it recently became illegal in Tennessee.
It's a ground up plant that experts say won't show up in a routine drug screening.
Online forums say the product can treat pain and is no more addictive than coffee.
But, the Catoosa County Coroner says Kratom is a dangerous gateway drug.
"Let me emphasize, none of this has been verified through scientific research," Vanita Hullander said. "It's just a bunch of garbage that these people are making up as they go."
Hullander says Georgia has seen 17 Kratom-related deaths this year.
The closest to Chattanooga was in Chattooga County.
The substance is easy to get. We first found it at a gas station in Cohutta.
But, after learning we were with NewsChannel 9, the man behind the counter told us his boss told him not to sell it.
So, we got it at another gas station just a couple miles away.
It cost $34. But it's hard to say how many hits someone can get out of the amount that came in the bag.
"We don't know what a dose is that's even safe," Hullander said.
The package says the product has not been evaluated by the FDA.
Hullander says the DEA wanted to classify Kratom as a schedule one drug last year.
That puts it in the same category as heroin and ecstasy.
According to the American Kratom Association, thousands of people signed a petition to keep that from happening.
Tennessee is one of six states that recently banned the sale of Kratom.
Hullander says the GA crime lab just started testing for Kratom in the last year. That means there's no way to know how many overdoses were related to it before now.