Aug. 24, 2023 – It’s called kratom (pronounced kră-tum), a product that is derived from a tree in Southeast Asia that, when ingested, can produce anything from a burst of energy to a type of short-term ecstasy.

Kratom takes on many forms, from pills to powders to brown-ish liquid inside tiny plastic bottles, all of which can usually be found inside large glass containers at gas stations across the country. It’s largely legal, except in a few states, yet not FDA-approved, which is why it’s sold predominantly at convenience stores as well as vape and CBD shops.

As well as the recreational pleasure it can provide its user, those who take it also report other effects, such as easing the discomfort brought on by drug withdrawals and aiding in pain relief. This is why it was once heralded as “a gas station drug that could end the opioid crisis.”

I first met Amy at a coffee shop in May. She is a middle-aged mother with pale green eyes and manicured nails. It was there that Amy, who did not want her real name used in this article, spoke of her addiction. She told me it began innocently enough, just by one day picking up some kratom pills at the convenience store in which she worked.