MEDFORD (CBS)– Mike Overstreet of Medford has a new outlook on life after kicking an addiction that started with pain medication in high school.

“I had an injury from wrestling,” he told WBZ-TV. “A bad back and hip and it got worse from there.”

Buprenorphine, prescribed by his doctor, helped Overstreet stay clean, but he said he didn’t like the side effects. He didn’t enjoy thing things he used to, like cooking and listening to music, and he said he never really felt like himself.

“I didn’t realize how much that medication was taking away,” he said.

But now, Overstreet is off the medication altogether and looking forward to getting married.

“I’m much happier, much more productive. I can think a lot clearer,” he said.

Mike Overstreet (WBZ-TV)

Overstreet credited his newfound clarity to a brown liquid: water mixed with kratom, a plant in the coffee family that is native to southeast Asia. Kratom is sold in capsules or a loose powder that is mixed into a drink.

“At low doses, it’s got more stimulating properties,” explained addiction specialist Dr. Mark Green. But Green has concerns about kratom because it has an opioid-like effect on the brain and at high doses, it can lead to big trouble.

“I see plenty of people who kratom is the only opiate they have used and they developed an impressive opiate dependence,” he said.

There are dozens of posts on YouTube about kratom, several describe what it’s like to quit after developing a dependence: “I felt without kratom I would never experience happiness again,” one person posted.

Kratom (WBZ-TV)

The risk of abuse is what prompted the FDA to warn consumers not to use it. The agency’s website states: There are no FDA-approved uses for kratom, and the agency has received concerning reports about the safety of kratom.”

Despite those warnings, it’s legal in Massachusetts. We found it behind the counter at several area smoke shops in the area.

The drug has also been linked to dozens of overdose deaths nationwide and according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, kratom was a contributing factor to 13 overdose deaths here in Massachusetts in the past three years.

But Overstreet is quick to point out that often the overdose deaths involve many substances, so you can’t blame the kratom.

Overstreet wants it to be regulated so the active ingredient is never higher than what is found in nature. He believes keeping it safe and available will help more people break the cycle of addiction. “I’ve had people come off heroin, come off fentanyl, cocaine and they are using it successfully,” he said.

Several states have banned the sale of kratom, and the Drug Enforcement Agency considers it a drug of concern, which means it poses a risk to those who abuse it.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

Comments (8)
  1. George Chang says:

    It’s refreshing to see an actual balanced news piece. Most of these media headlines coming out citing this CDC report are nothing more than fearmongering and ignore the report’s actual findings, which support the position that more regulations need to be in place to protect consumers from unscrupulous vendors who spike natural kratom with dangerous adulterants. The CDC report also indicates that medical examiners and coroners are reporting ONLY that they have detected kratom in toxicology reports, and they often incorrectly report that kratom was involved in or the actual cause of death. I don’t believe for a second that anyone is dying just from ingesting pure unadulterated kratom leaf. Someone would have to consume an obscene amount of kratom to reach a lethal dose and they would get sick and puke their guts out way before that happened. Even the CDC in their latest report admits that kratom is not a typical opioid. For one thing, it is a relative of the coffee tree, not poppy. It’s considered a partial agonist in that it doesn’t act on the body’s mu-opioid receptors the same way (as well) as traditional opioids like heroin. Dr Chris McCurdy of the University of Florida College of Pharmacy used a driving analogy in an interview, saying kratom is like giving it a little gas vs. something like heroin slamming the pedal to the floor. Because of this, kratom doesn’t cause respiratory depression like typical opioids and because of this it doesn’t carry the same risk of death.

  2. Walter Toner says:

    Mr Chang has summarized the issue beautifully. I have used this product daily for several years and have suffered no side effects. We don’t need the government establishing another BS prohibition on a natural product that civilization has found useful for millenniums,

  3. Although this story is a bit more balanced than some of the overblown horror stories of Kratom, all generated, and regurgitated, by the Mainstream Media, FDA, and/or CDC, it still does not really hit the nail on the head. To begin with, Kratom is in the coffee family, and has similar stimulating effects, and similar addiction potential as caffeine. At low doses it offers a gentle mood boost, and is a bit more sedating at higher doses. Kratom is used to achieve a state of well being, which is different for everyone. For some, it assists with pain relief, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even offers an off ramp from people taking much stronger opioids derived from the poppy plant (Kratom is not a poppy derivative but some news stories would make people think that it is by the language used such as “opiate like” in this segment). Approximately 3-5 million people currently use Kratom in lieu of Rx drugs, which obviously could be much more dangerous. I have been a Kratom user for eight years. I found it through a simple Google search for “Natural Pain Relievers” in 2011 because I saw so many people in the throws of addiction due to real opioids and was scared to go down that road. I was diagnosed with DDD in 2000, and refused opioid therapy. I used OTC meds for 11 years which caused much more damage to my body than Kratom. As a matter of fact, I have lost 109 lbs and regained my active lifestyle because of Kratom, and I am the healthiest I have ever been at 46 years old. I no longer use any dangerous OTC pills. I am a teacher, husband, son, and a very productive, and involved member of my community in NY. Kratom needs to be studied, and regulated by the FDA for safety, not demonized and banned by classifying it as a schedule 1 narcotic drug. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently gave $3.5 million dollars to the University of Florida to study Kratom. If it becomes schedule 1, like the FDA seems intent on achieving, it will be nearly impossible to research. Currently it is one of the ONLY natural options that people have to better their lives, and a tool we should utilize to battle this opioid hysteria in this country. To the gentleman in this video, Mike Overstreet, I commend you for getting off of Suboxone with this gentle natural leaf. From what I’ve heard, it’s nearly impossible to get off of Suboxone, and I have to wonder, is that by design? Hmmm.. Why fight an amazing leaf with such healing potential? It baffles me every time I see, or read, some of the blatantly spread misinformation on Kratom. It has been LIFE SAVING for millions of people. Where are all of those news stories? The American Kratom Association has plenty of wonderful testimonials of success on their website, along with the real science behind it, which proves it to be safe. #Iamkratom #Keepkratomlegal #Kratomsaveslives

  4. I am also a regular user of Kratom. It has saved me from a life of addiction. Im a professional person in a Fortune 500 Company that has been on the job for 15 years. 8 of those years while using Kratom.
    You can find 1000s of stories out there of people who have beat the addiction or helped with the pain they suffer because of Kratom. I can tell you first hand that Kratom is nothing close to an Opioid. It has a small stimulation effect if you take more of it then it will relax you. Overdosing deaths are 100% false as you cannot OD on Kratom. It doesn’t not suffer from the same killing property as Opioids with is the respiratory depression. Matter of fact if you take to much kratom it will make you puke but all of the deaths that are discussed by the FDA, DEA, cdc are 100% false as if you dive into the stories you will find that the deaths all have other drugs in their system. One such story was of a man who they said OD’d on Kratom but he was actually killed from a gun shot wound. You will find thousands of people stories all giving a true account of Kratom and its positive impact it has had on their lives. I challenge you to dive into these stories and you will find I am speaking the truth.

    Kratom has been used for thousands of years with all great success. It was actually banned in Thailand because it was interfering with the government profits on the Herion trade. The same thing is happening in the USA. 5 million patients have found relief from Kratom and that’s cutting into the big Pharma profits. Since Kratom is a natural plant they cannot patent it so they are trying to get it banned by any means necessary. Please look into it. I also would recommend you watch the Movie called Leaf of Faith (Netflix) which gives the true story of Kratom and the impact it has had on American lives. It is truly a wonderful thing.

  5. Christopher Deoudes says:

    Kratom saves lives. I have used it for 8+ years. It is the only natural alternative to prescription drugs that really works. There wouldn’t be thousands and thousands of mothers, father, seniors, accident victims and veterans fighting for it if it was just a “legal high”.

  6. Coffee, cheese, chocolate- please do research on these ‘addictive’ items… Kratom does not restrict breathing like an opioid. There is no way did 13 deaths occurred because of ingesting Kratom, no way! By the way, Dr. how many deaths were attributed to legal alcohol being sold all over Mass. last year?