- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2016

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s only son, Paul Jr., and a Navy mom are on opposing sides when it comes to kratom, a so-called anti-opioid substance.

Laura Eden found out about the ill effects of the herbal substance kratom after her son, John, a Navy intelligence officer, committed suicide and bags of kratom were found in his bedroom.

Nicknamed “herbal heroin,” kratom comes from the glossy leaves of a tree grown in the jungles of Southeast Asia, including such nations as Thailand, where it its leaves are crushed and brewed as a tea. It then is used as a painkiller or opioid substitute.

Some experts say kratom also stimulates the same brain receptors as morphine and oxycodone, and is highly addictive. In the United States, kratom is available in loose form and as capsules pills, and can be found in smoke shops and online.

“I was floored that this even happened,” Ms. Eden recently told the Norfolk area’s ABC News affliliate. “I feel like maybe my son’s death wasn’t senseless. “He did no illegal drugs. He was looking for something to help with anxiety.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration plans to place kratom on the Schedule I controlled substance list, which means that, like heroin, methamphetamine and other opioids, it will becomes a no-sale, no-possession illegal drug. The ban would take effect on Sept. 30.

Enter Mr. Pelosi, a hired gun of the American Kratom Association. The organization is two years old, and Mr. Pelosi became its executive director in 2016. In opposition to the proposed ban, supporters plan to march on Washington on Sept. 13.

Advocates claim kratom helps with battling anxiety and depression. However, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that calls to poison centers about kratom ingestion have increased tenfold from 26 in 2010 to 263 in 2015 — the year John Eden took his life.

Like the popular K2 or misnamed “synthetic marijuana,” kratom is an exotic or designer drug people mistakenly use to self-medicate.

Susan Ash, founding director of the American Kratom Association, says an estimated 60 percent of kratom users have no history of addiction. She told U.S. News.com that a large number of veterans who have found no relief from pharmaceuticals for post-traumatic stress disorder use kratom.

“I’m getting hundreds if not thousands of messages from people right now who are feeling suicidal,” she said.

The anguished Eden told his parents in a suicide note that his attempts at self-medication sent him in the opposite direction.

Here again, kratom is sold as a safe botanical.

“I really believe in my heart he did not know what he was doing,” Mrs. Eden told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “He thought this stuff was safe and it just spiraled out of control.”

She and John’s father, also named John, want kratom banned.

“Just because it’s a root or comes off as something natural does not mean it’s OK,” John’s dad said.

The Navy intelligence program standout was 22 years old in May 2015 when he shot himself in the head.

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