ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Leaders at the Food and Drug Administration are now urging the public to not use a product that some believe is helping save lives.
FDA officials said Kratom could be making the opioid epidemic worse.
The FDA's recent public health advisory is one of its strongest messages against Kratom use in the last several years, but those in support of the plant-based substance said its needed now more than ever.
The local response
A sign sits in front of Summerlin Vitamins in Albany advertising the controversial plant-based supplement Kratom.
"It all boils down to one thing," co-owner Lee Summerlin said. "Nobody would care, the FDA wouldn't care, the people wouldn't care, if this product did not work, but it works and that's why there are millions of people that are up in arms about it."
Adding to that debate, the Food and Drug Administration issued a public health advisory last week.
The document states officials believe the substance to be dangerous, addictive and deadly.
A statement explaining the decision by the FDA's commissioner also said he's concerned that Kratom will only make the opioid epidemic worse, but Kratom advocates disagree.
"If you sit here for ten minutes, you'll see somebody that's taken Kratom instead of taking opiates or heroin," said Summerlin.
That why co-owner Lee Summerlin said agents seizing it at the U.S. border now are creating a dangerous situation, by eliminating what he believes is a safe alternative to heroin.
"You're kind of sentencing people to death if you know that it's killing so many people," Summerlin said. "I wonder how many people they'll kill, by doing this, by banning Kratom."
Summerlin adds that until the substance is illegal in Georgia, he plans on selling it in his store, and, in turn, hopes to save more lives.
Summerlin said he hasn't noticed any differences in the availability of Kratom since the federal government began seizing imports.
The FDA said there are no approved uses for the plant.
The American Kratom Association has responded to the recent FDA advisory.
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