TAMPA, Fla. -- A Florida mom says a well-known herb killed her son. The Medical Examiner says it's the first ever case of a death caused strictly by Kratom. We sat down with the man's mother, who's on a mission to warn other parents.
“He was the love of my life. I would've done anything for him, and I did.” July 7th was a day Laura Lamon will never forget; the day Tampa police called her phone.
“He said your son is deceased. I lost it…I just started yelling and I don't remember much after that.”
Lamon's only son, 27-year-old Christopher Waldron was dead. Lamon says he struggled with addiction for a decade; she assumed he finally overdosed on narcotics.
She found two packs in her son's motel that she believes is a new highly concentrated pill. Five blister packs were empty. She had no clue what they were.
A month later she got the autopsy report. “I was shocked. When I got it I thought ‘what is this?’ I had found some things in his room and saw the packages of what he had taken, but I didn't really know much about it.”
Some Millennials know a lot about it. We talked to some at a cafe that serves Kratom tea. Each say they use it for different reasons…to focus, or to help with anxiety, depression, or pain relief.
“I drink maybe like one or two a day, depending on pain levels or anxiety levels,” says Trevor Toma.
“I wouldn't say that I need it, but it does help relax me a lot more, so I am kind of mellowed out,” says Kayla Osborn.
We told them about Waldron's death and all gave us some variation of this answer. “I think obviously don't be an idiot about it, for lack of a better word, and just take it easy.”
Lamon says the problem is there's really no way to know how many grams to take or mix first starting off. When we went into the cafe undercover to buy the tea, the employee went to the back and came out with a mixed batch. She told us to drink it slowly, over the course of an hour or we'd get sick.
“If it were properly labeled, than he would've had a chance,” says Lamon. “There was no label on it at all. There was no dosage on it, it didn't have a warning label, it didn't say don't mix it with this or that. A bottle of Tylenol has that on there.”
A toxicologist for Hillsborough County says there isn't enough research to go back and figure out how many grams Waldron ingested to get his blood level to his lethal amount. The report says Waldron had 1.8 milligram per liter of blood.
The toxicologist says that's a lot.
Pills we saw in stores don't give dosages. Powders have to be carefully measured, and you have to do your own research on various websites to get it right or Lamon says you die.
“He didn't want to die. And so I think he wouldn't have taken it had he known that he could die from it.”
From 2014 to 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration identified 15 deaths connected to Kratom.
The American Kratom Association defends the botanical, saying "a person could not ingest enough Kratom in any reasonable time frame that could lead to a death."
Lamon says before anyone can make that statement the drug needs to be researched even more. The FDA is now running tests on the drug.
A DEA agent says if their findings show the herbal supplement has no medicinal value, they will ban it.
Lamon isn't calling for a ban. She wants the people who make it and sell it held accountable. “I am angry at the gas station, I am angry at the company that distributes it, I am angry at them because they know they know there is stuff out there.”
We reached out to the manufacturers of the pills that Christopher Waldron's mom says he took. We have not yet heard back from them.