Thousands fight to keep controversial herb legal

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — People who use a controversial herbal supplement are fighting to stop a federal ban.

At least 26,000 people have signed a petition to President Donald Trump to stop the criminalization of kratom.

Kratom is a tree leaf that is said to have opiate-like effects, but does not contain opiates.

Many people use the herb to treat depression, anxiety and chronic pain.

"When it's used responsibly, it's a miracle supplement," Christy Garner said.

Garner uses kratom to battle chronic pain and keep her away from the pain medication that she used to be addicted to.


Some people think the herb is a dangerous, addicting substance.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency said it has high potential for abuse and there is currently no accepted use as a form of treatment in the U.S.

"In this case, you're just substituting one very addictive substance for another," addiction specialist Dr. Vance Raham said.

Raham said kratom is mind-altering and can be harmful.

"They may not be chasing heroin anymore, or chasing addiction to opiates or buying them off the street. They're still buying a substance that will continue to leave them addicted," he said.

Garner said she's lost two friends to heroin overdoses. She believes they may have still been alive today if they switched to kratom.

"You can't overdose from it. It has it's own shutoff mechanism. If you take too much, you don't (overdose) and die," she said.

The DEA has put the plan to ban kratom on the back-burner while it awaits further study.