Hong Kong lawmakers have called for controls against a potentially addictive herbal substance known as “legal heroin” now available in the city.
Kratom, or ketum, is made from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree which is native to parts of Southeast Asia, including Thailand and Indonesia.
The leaves, which can be chewed, brewed as a tea or ground, contain chemical compounds that cause stimulatory or sedative effects in different doses.
These effects are similar to those in the opioid drug class, which includes heroin and opium, some of the most addictive of all known substances.
Kratom has been used in traditional medicines in the region since at least the 19th century and available from many kratom vendors. But in recent years an increasing number of people in the United States and other parts of the world, especially those suffering serious opioid crises, have been using kratom as a mood booster, a pain reliever, and as a treatment for opioid addiction as a result of its ability to mirror the opioid drug class.