Kratom is a plant from Southeast Asia, where it has aided traditional medicine for millennia. The powder of its leaves has also found its supporters in the Czech Republic. However, despite the opioid effects and the risk of addiction, children can also buy a natural stimulant. Just go to a special vending machine, newsagent or search for an online store. However, the ministry does not yet plan to regulate its sales.
About 150 meters from the special primary school in Žatec, there is a black vending machine near the half-empty parking lot of Kruhové náměstí. Behind the glass are brown and silver sachets that look like tea. However, these are 50 gram packets of kratom, a natural stimulant that can have opioid effects in higher doses and poses a risk of addiction.
Although kratom is not an approved nutritional supplement or food in the Czech Republic, traders usually sell the powder for consumption. The product is considered a collector’s item, which can be sold freely without restriction. “Currently, every schoolchild can buy a bag of kratom. Some distributors even abuse it and, due to higher profits, place vending machines near schools and bus stops,” says Lukáš Pfeffer, the founder of the Association. Czech-Slovak kratom.
The company AtomaStore, which, in addition to the vending machine at the special school, has another of its vending machines five minutes’ walk from the primary school in Karlovy Vary, claims that it does not intend to place them so that they are within the reach of schoolchildren. .
“Proximity to a school by no means plays the slightest role in choosing a new location for a vending machine. In fact, we don’t even know it will be in front of a school. be purchased in all online stores in the same way, where it is even easier,” says Tomáš Riedl, the company’s managing director.
The founder of the association, Pfeffer, does not like this way of selling. Although he is a supporter of kratom because it claims to help it, he considers the current way of selling the substance to be dangerous. Because kratom is sold as a collectible, for example, the labels are completely lacking in information about the powder or the risks of consuming it.
However, Riedl says people research products before buying them on the internet. “Given my years of experience, I’m optimistic that every new customer first finds the information and then makes a purchase,” says Riedl.
Anti-drug coordinator wants to regulate kratom, not the state
The missing rules for the sale of kratom also bother the national anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil (ODS), who will propose his regulation. “I certainly don’t want to enforce the ban. However, the risks of using the substance must appear on the label, as well as information about the manufacturer. The restriction is also a necessity,” he says. .
However, the Ministry of Health does not plan anything like this at the moment. According to him, there is not yet enough information to put kratom on the list of addictive substances. “In the future, however, a change in ranking cannot be ruled out,” spokesman Ondřej Jakob said.
However, Viktor Mravčík, the former head of the National Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction, believes that the state should intervene. According to him, stricter rules should apply to the sale of the substance and at the same time kratom should be included among drugs. “Kratom can be used, for example, when weaning off a hard drug,” he explains.
But the current way of selling can be dangerous. According to Mravčík, kratom users are mainly threatened by ignorance of the correct dosage and the exact composition of the substance. “In small amounts kratom can be a mild stimulant, in higher amounts it acts as a sedative. It is not normally dangerous, but exceeding the dose can lead to addiction,” warns Mravčík.
It helps, but it’s hard to get away from it, say kratom supporters
The founder of the Pfeffer association describes that his acquaintances felt nausea, sweating, joint pain and indigestion during withdrawal. However, according to addictologist Ivan Douda, the effects of addiction are very individual. “Natural stimulants can be a good servant, but also a bad master. The range of potential threats is wide and withdrawal symptoms are certainly one of them. desire to replace kratom with another addictive substance,” adds Douda.
Experts concerned with kratom also warn against the weakening of liver metabolism, which occurs when combining the powder with other substances. “There has also been talk of a detrimental effect on the kidneys, but this has not yet been confirmed. However, the concentrated forms of kratom are risky, in which a much higher amount of the dose appears than in the natural form. “, points out Mravčík. outside.
Although the state does not regulate kratom, the substance is very popular. Last year, students from the 1st Faculty of Medicine at Charles University, Zuzana Vostřelová and Denisa Vajdlová, conducted a survey on the growing popularity of kratom among young people. Of the 197 university students surveyed, 21.8% confirmed their experience with the substance, with 18.3% using it in the last year and 11.2% of respondents in the last month.
“This little research has confirmed that the experience with kratom is not unique among university students in Prague. Young people typically use kratom as a stimulant during the exam period, such as energy drinks or coffee,” comments Mravčík, who oversaw the investigation.
Pfeffer, the founder of the krat association, praises the fact that the substance helped relieve his chronic back pain, which made it difficult for him to stand most of the day. “Thanks to small doses of powder, I can work and survive thanks to it,” he says.