DEA reconsiders plan to ban kratom

DENVER -- The Drug Enforcement Agency is reconsidering its plans to ban kratom, a controversial herbal supplement derived from a plant in Asia.

People who take kratom often say it helps them overcome addiction to opiates or alcohol. Others take it to reduce anxiety or chronic pain.

Joy Atencio's 36 year-old-son, Guy Garcia, took kratom to treat his anxiety, but overdosed and suffered a seizure that ultimately killed him.

"People are ignoring the facts, ignoring the fact it's highly addictive and it is lethal," Atencio said.

Garcia died in 2013, but several others have also died after taking the drug. The DEA said it has linked the drug to 15 deaths over the past two years.

"How many other people are going to be going through the same thing I have, my son, my daughter, my brother, my sister, my mom, my dad?" Atencio asked. "How many other people?"

However, others tout the drug's benefits. The DEA announced plans this week to reconsider a ban on kratom after hearing from thousands of people upset with the agency's decision.

Jen Mahaney owns Headed West Smoke Shops and is also one of the largest distributors of kratom in Colorado. She said she has seen many lives changed for the better because of kratom.

"If I believed it was dangerous I wouldn't be selling it," she said. "This is not a street drug, this is not a party drug, this is a drug you could walk into your physician's office with and ask for guidance. It's nothing that needs to be hidden," she said.

However, Joy Atencio is not convinced. She said the benefits will never outweigh the negatives.

"There are deaths because of kratom. I have to be hopeful. I have to be hopeful at least, because I can't let him die in vain. I can't let him die in vain," she said.

The DEA will accept public comment through November and will then make a final ruling.