NORTHPORT - The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to ban the use of kratom – a plant that has opiate-like effects when ingested – to its list of prohibited drugs.
Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, says many people believe that kratom is safe because it's a naturally occurring substance. He says that's not the case.
"The countries it's indigenous to…Thailand and Southeast Asia, actually banned it decades ago because of its addictive properties – both physical and psychological – and really the medicinal usage of this has not been established."
However, Josh Enden, of Northport, who suffers from social anxiety, says there are benefits to the herb.
"It gave me a little bit of energy, it helped my anxiety," he tells News 12 Long Island.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini says he supports a kratom ban as well. He says now is not the time to send mixed signals when it comes to drug use.
"We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic. We need to be raising awareness and doing prevention work," says Sini.
While the feds plan to ban kratom in the near future, County Legislator Steve Stern proposed a bill banning the substance in Suffolk back in April.