Miracle Treatment Or Dangerous Drug? Indonesia Cashes In On Kratom

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PONTIANAK, Indonesia (AFP) – The sweltering backwaters of Indonesian Borneo has become the unlikely ground zero for the global production and export of Kratom, a tree leaf hailed by some as a miracle cure for everything from opioid addiction to anxiety.

Part of the coffee family, the leaf has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea for its pain-relieving and mildly stimulating effects but it is now sold in powder form and exported worldwide – alarming some health regulators who have raised concerns about safety.

“I take Kratom and have had no problems. Every strain has its benefits – some help you relax, others can treat insomnia or treat drug addiction. Some help increases stamina,” grower Faisal Perdana told AFP.

Fellow farmer Gusti Prabu, who now exports 10 tonnes of the drug a month, agreed.

Kratom is already banned for domestic consumption in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, though the former allows its export in unprocessed form.

Health authorities in the United States (US) – now the drug’s top importer – have linked consumption of the plant and its derivatives to dozens of deaths, warning it could aggravate a deadly opioid epidemic gripping parts of the country.

Compounds found in Kratom are opioids, which expose users to the same risks of addiction and death as illicit opiates, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Data from 2016 showed that the region was shipping some 400 tonnes abroad every month – worth about USD130 million annually at current global prices of some USD30 a kilogram.

Read the full article at Borneo Bulletin

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