Kratom rush in Thailand as producers eye US exports of opioid-like herb
- The US kratom market is estimated to be valued at more than US$1 billion annually, much of which is currently imported from Indonesia
- But the opioid alternative is under review by the WHO’s drug dependence committee and the US FDA has warned consumers about it
Sittichai Komam did not waste time once Thailand in late August decriminalised kratom, a coffee-like plant native to Southeast Asia that can give users a mild high. Within hours, the entrepreneur was on Facebook selling freshly picked kratom leaves, sourced from his neighbourhood in southern Thailand, to local consumers.
Popular in the United States, where advocates say it is an opioid alternative but critics say it is a dangerous drug, kratom is the latest herb the Thai government has legalised for production.
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