AUSTIN, Texas — Kratom seems to be popping up more at mom-and-pop health shops, convenience stores and vape shops.
These Kratom pills, which are in marked or unmarked packages, claim to offer benefits like more energy and anxiety reduction. The substance comes from Mitragyna speciosa tree, which is native to southeast Asia.
"Many people use it like as a conventional food. These people found it helped them to increase their energy and to increase focus," said Mac Haddow, a senior fellow on public policy for the American Kratom Association.
Now, the Texas Senate is pushing forward a bill that would protect Texans by regulating the substance.
However, advocates like Haddow say the powder derived from the leaves can help treat anxiety, depression and even addiction withdrawals when taken at higher doses.
"Eighty-seven percent reported that Kratom helped reduce their withdrawal symptoms from the substance they were using," Haddow said.
In Texas, the substance is widely unregulated. State Sen. Judith Zaffirini put forth Senate Bill 497 to add regulations and age restrictions to encourage ethical sales of Kratom.
"Generally would require proper labeling of Kratom products, with use instructions and recommended serving sizes, and prohibit the sale of unlabeled Kratom," Zaffirini said.
Haddow said this is a crucial step as Kratom products have been cut with things like fentanyl, heroin and other harmful substances.
"They spike it with fentanyl or morphine or heroin or buprenorphine, all to give it that euphoric high that the natural Kratom plant doesn't have. And they don't tell you what's in it," Haddow said.
Legislation like this is what Haddow said his organization supports rather than banning it as the FDA has considered before.
"It should not be adulterated. And that's what this legislation does. It establishes a regulatory framework that's reasonable," Haddow said.
Haddow said Texans should support this legislation to feel safer about the products they're buying.