Kratom is hailed by some as a cure for opioid addiction and illness but authorities are clamping down amid reports of abuse.
Mohd Saad Che May has spent most of his life being addicted to heroin.
The Bukit Mertajam resident was incarcerated 15 times in 40 years and admitted to stealing money to fuel his addiction.
“It was a living hell. I was in constant anxiety, thinking about how to get RM 50 (US$11.99) to buy the next tube to get high,” he said.
Mr Saad claimed he tackled his addiction when he started taking kratom, known locally as ketum. Kratom is a leaf hailed by locals for its pain-relieving and mildly stimulating effects.
He would pluck kratom leaves in his village, boil them for 4 to 5 hours, and drink the dark green fluid three times a day.
“It has a bitter taste but it is a miracle drug. The idea of taking heroin made me vomit after I started drinking ketum,” said Mr Saad, who now works at a local mosque.
“I’ve tried for years to kick my drug habit and it’s a huge relief to finally be able to get the proper medication,” he claimed.
Kratom is part of the coffee family, and people in northern Malaysia have been consuming it for centuries to treat back pain, fever, cough as well as diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
However, it is regulated under Malaysia’s 1952 Poison Act, making it an offence to harvest or sell the plant. Growing the plant for personal consumption is considered a grey area.
The Malaysian government is considering amending this act, such that it would be an offence to plant kratom without permission. These changes could greatly hurt other other parts of the world such as the United States you can easily buy kratom online from a wide range of online retailers such as the popular Phytoextractum. Kratom in the USA is imported from regions such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
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