From: The Alternative Examiner.
Alabama deaths have increased since the banning of kratom as heroin overdoses reach a high. In 2016, thus far, there have been over 103 overdoses with 25 Heroin and Fentanyl deaths in June in Jefferson County, Alabama.
So what is Kratom? Kratom is a natural supplement harvested from a tree native to Southeast Asia. Kratom behaves like an opiate, but it’s in the same family as that of coffee. Many people use Kratom to ease the pain of withdrawal and reduce cravings. The effects of the herb when consumed are less intense but similar to that of opioids because Kratom attaches to the Mu Opioid receptor sites. Although it bids to the same receptors, Kratom is much less, if not barely, addictive.
Kratom comes in may forms: powders, leaves, tincture, extract, and pills. The strains include Maeng Da Kratom, Bali Kratom, Malaysian Kratom, Borneo Kratom, Thai Kratom, Green Vein Kratom, and Indonesian Kratom.
Kratom, as with most supplements, can be abused. There is no chance of overdosing on Kratom, if too much is consumed there are some side effects. Side effects associated with taking it include nausea, upset stomach, hot/cold flashes, dizziness, sleepiness, and dependence.
Back to Jefferson County, between the first day of this year to June 30th, 103 people have died from overdosing on heroin (46) and fentanyl (34). Some even died from overdosing on both at the same time. 11 were from prescription opioids. The leftover cases are still going through toxicology.
In 2015, the deaths from heroin overdoses actually went down 14%. There were a total of 138 heroin deaths in 2014 and 97 in 2015. That’s a dramatic decrease. Fentanyl deaths nearly doubled from 25 in 2014 to 49 in 2015.
Just last month though, Capt. Bryan Harrell of the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service report 101 overdoses. The Hueytown police chief, Mr. Hagler, reported three overdoses in June: “The heroin market appears to be here to stay. And the addition of Fentanyl has brought a deadly new problem to the table. Most, if not all, of the addicts buying heroin and getting high concentrations of Fentanyl have no idea what they are getting.”
In respect to the increase of heroin overdose victims in Hoover, police Capt. Gregg Rector commented, “We’ve investigated five deaths during that period that all appear to be attributed to either heroin or a combination of heroin and Fentanyl. There were only three drug-related deaths the first five months of this year, which made us hopeful that there might be a decrease for 2016.” In that same month, authorities responded to 11 cases of overdose according to Rector, “Our fire department paramedics revived several of those individuals with Narcan and others were conscious and breathing on their own by the time police and fire units arrived.”
To make heroin more potent, oftentimes users mix it with Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and is often prescribed to cancer patients and those recovering from operations. It is said to be 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin, according to al.com. Rector says, “Fentanyl is certainly much more deadly than heroin and it’s occasionally sold and consumed in its pure form. The scary part of that scenario is that addicts don’t really have a clue what they’re injecting or snorting. It appears that they are actively seeking dealers who are selling the “best” product. That “best” product they are looking for is the same substance that is causing unconsciousness and death among their friends.”
He adds, “While Jefferson County saw a decrease in drug overdose deaths in 2015, what we may have really seen was an increase in drug overdose survivors due to the increased use of Narcan. Overdose spikes like we’re seeing now are especially disturbing because Narcan is not going to save every victim. In fact, it may be giving users a false sense of security. It appeared that the age of hard-core addicts was creeping downward but we’re really seeing a broad age-range of users. This year alone we’ve seen victims as young as their early 20’s and for the first time we responded to an overdose survivor who was over 60 years old. Once again, price and availability is making this a problem for many age groups. From a law enforcement perspective, it’s very frustrating. We work very closely with the DEA and local departments, trying to put a dent into an epidemic that’s killing people. We arrest drug dealers and traffickers but there’s always another waiting to take his place.”
Taking a cheaper alternative to drugs to help with keeping withdrawal away is a bad idea and is proving to be in Alabama. Law enforcement and citizens of Alabama alike are frustrated and in need of a cheap, safe, alternative to help them get off of the heroin that is killing people left and right.