WENTZVILLE, Mo. — Across the St. Louis metro area, those who sell Kratom said dozens of people are throwing away their prescriptions and picking up this drug.
It's a plant-based drug from Southeast Asia that users claim relieves everything from pain to depression and anxiety. And supporters said the number of users is growing.
But others said the unregulated herb can be addicting, cause serious medical issues, or even kill you.
On Monday, St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann will ask the county council to ban the drug.
The FDA doesn't regulate Kratom because it's technically a supplement, but they call it an opioid and associate it with more than three dozen deaths. A few states have already banned the substance. In Missouri, it's still legal for now.
"I just think we're going to go down the wrong road if they take it away," said Kratom user Holly Jones.
Eight years ago, Jones said her life was looking bleak.
"I actually was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and since then I've had chronic pain," she said. Over the years, her pain became so severe that she started to take over-the-counter medicine to stop the discomfort, but she said they never worked. "I didn't want to take pain pills. I don't like the way that they make me feel," Jones said.
Then in 2018, Jones learned about Kratom through her family and decided to give it a try. She brewed it into a tea and said she felt instant relief.
"I was still able to function. I was still able to go to work. I didn't have as much discomfort," she said.
Jones now takes a small dose every morning to dull her pain. But if local lawmakers get their way, that would have to stop.
“If this is banned, there’s going to be a big, big ill outcome in this," she said.
Some medical professionals are also pushing to make the herb illegal. Dr. Michael Mullins of Washington University, a toxicologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, said the drug can come with dangerous risks such as liver injuries or even death. But he still supports more research into the unregulated plant.
"There's not clear data to show that it's effective. There's no clear data to show that it's safe," Mullins said.
Isaac Palatnik, who is a manager for CBD Kratom in Wentzville, disagrees with an outright ban. However, he said he's all for regulations on the drug.
"We think there is definitely room for improvement on Kratom," Palatnik said. "Everyone should be able to buy Kratom that is clean and safe."
The bill to ban the drug in St. Charles County will be introduced on Monday at the 7 p.m. council meeting. A vote to approve or reject the ordinance could take place at the council meeting on Tuesday, May 28.
Meanwhile, Missouri state representatives are also debating a bill related to the sale of Kratom that would regulate the drug instead of banning it.