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CBP Cincinnati Seizes 71 Shipments of Kratom Powder

Release Date: 
August 3, 2015

CINCINNATI— U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers at a Cincinnati express consignment facility recently seized more than 5,400 pounds of kratom powder at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The powder was contained within 71 shipments imported over the past two months.

Kratom is among the most commonly abused controlled substances in Thailand, and has been illegal there since 1943.

Kratom is among the most commonly abused controlled substances in Thailand, and has been illegal there since 1943.

Kratom, also known as Mitragyna speciosa, is a member of the coffee family and is native to Southeast Asia. Its leaves contain chemical compounds that can stimulate brain receptors and act as a painkiller or sedative in high concentrations.

Advocates for kratom claim the plant is useful in treating morphine and heroin addiction, and is an appealing alternative to pharmaceutical painkillers. According to the FDA, kratom and kratom-containing dietary supplements or ingredients are considered adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, because they contain a new dietary ingredient that lacks adequate information to determine any associated health risks. Additionally, certain kratom products may be considered unapproved and misbranded drugs under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, based upon their intended uses. 

The FDA emphasizes the potential public health hazards associated with the consumption of kratom which can lead to a number of health problems including respiratory depression, nervousness, agitation, aggression, sleeplessness, hallucinations, delusions, loss of libido, tremors, skin hyperpigmentation, nausea, vomiting, constipation and severe withdrawal signs and symptoms.

Law enforcement officials have been concerned for some time about kratom’s potential for abuse. In September 2014, at the request of the FDA, U.S. Marshals seized more than 25,000 pounds of raw kratom from a facility in southern California. Later that year, the FDA requested Cincinnati CBP Officers to seize more than 19,000 pounds destined to a single importer.

Kratom, also known as Mitragyna speciosa, is a member of the coffee family and is native to Southeast Asia.

Kratom, also known as Mitragyna speciosa, is a member of the coffee family and is native to Southeast Asia.

“Kratom poses a risk to public health and has the potential for abuse, and the FDA supports the detention of kratom shipments to determine their intended purpose,” said Melinda Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “We have seen an increased number of dietary supplement shipments containing kratom intended for human consumption. Our responsibility is to safeguard the public from substances that are known significant public health hazards, and we will take enforcement actions against products that are promoted for unapproved uses.”

Kratom is among the most commonly abused controlled substances in Thailand, and has been illegal there since 1943. It is illegal in a number of Asian and South Pacific countries, some European countries, and certain states. Though it is not scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in the United States, it is on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) list of Drugs and Chemicals of Concern.

“This is a classic example of a relatively new trend ahead of certain laws, and the substance has yet to be identified as a scheduled narcotic,” said Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie. “The CBP Officers and Agriculture Specialists at the Cincinnati port of entry have received national recognition for their efficiency in using all available resources to intercept potentially illegal cargo. Most international shipments are legitimate. We excel at identifying suspect violations, such as kratom imported for illegitimate purposes, with minimal impact on local stakeholder operations and legitimate trade.”

CBP conducts operations at ports of entry throughout the United States, and regularly screens arriving international passengers and cargo for narcotics, weapons, and other restricted or prohibited products. CBP strives to serve as the premier law enforcement agency enhancing the Nation’s safety, security, and prosperity through collaboration, innovation, and integration.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017