RIVERHEAD , N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — You can order it online or walk into most smoke or vape shops to buy kratom.

Never heard of it?

Before it becomes a household word, Suffolk County may ban the herbal leaf, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported. Legislator Steve Stern, D-Huntington, says it’s making users seriously sick.

“Psychosis, respiratory problems, hallucinations,” Stern described.

Because it’s legal, people may assume it’s safe. Stern says not so.

“Not just the problems as a result of its highly addictive nature, but it is considered a gateway drug,” Stern said.

Susan Ash of the American Kratom Association, who travels the country lobbying against banning the substance, claims it helped wean her off an opiate addiction after Lyme disease and she never had ill effects. The natural plant has been used for centuries in Thailand to kill pain and treat depression, but because it can produce a mood boost, she says it’s misunderstood.

“I have been taking this plant every day for about two years now,” Ash said.

“It tastes so bad that it’s not a fun recreational drug. We don’t even like to call it a drug. It’s a mild plant that is a powerful medicinal.”

The Food and Drug Administration has issued alerts warning against using it, and drug abuse expert Jeffrey Reynolds says no public health entity has signed off on kratom.

“It means it hasn’t been tested,” said Reynolds, CEO of the Family & Children’s Association. “And buying an herb off of the Internet and using it to treat addiction or chronic pain is a terrible idea.”

Suffolk will open the debate to the public Tuesday. Kratom supporters say it should be properly studied, not banned. They say they would support a compromise that keeps the plant legal but limits its sale to adults only.

The plant is currently legal in all but four states. New York state is considering a ban, too.

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