Kratom group accuses coroner, DEA of ‘shadow campaign’

Kratom, a plant used for bodybuilding, pain relief and heroin recovery, was named as the cause of death in a report from Franklin County Coroner Shawn Stuart. A kratom advocacy group has implicated Stuart in a “shadow campaign” against the plant. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — The American Kratom Association has implicated Franklin County Coroner Shawn Stuart in what it refers to as a “shadow campaign” by the Drug Enforcement Agency to libel the plant’s reputation.

Stuart, of Tupper Lake, believes the claim is absurd.

A press release from the association states it “is deeply concerned that the agency [DEA] may also be seeking to encourage findings of kratom in death reports from coroners and medical examiners.”

Kratom, a legal Southeast Asian plant, is in the coffee family and produces opioid-like effects, which has earned it a controversial reputation. Despite that, thousands of bodybuilders, pain-sufferers and heroin users in recovery use the plant every day and rely on its legality.

The AKA has always taken the position that it is impossible to overdose on kratom, so when Stuart released a coroner’s report in September saying that Tupper Lake police Sgt. Matthew Dana died of an overdose of mitragynine, the active compound in kratom, advocates for the plant nationwide responded in force.

In an effort to clear kratom’s name, the association has filed a Freedom of Information request for the coroner’s report, held a national conference call with doctors defending kratom’s legality and issued a press release claiming there are repeated signs the DEA is waging a “shadow campaign” against kratom by misleading law enforcement, journalists, legislators, the general public and coroners.

The unsourced evidence provided for that last claim states, “There have been public reports of coordination between the two otherwise widely separated New York and Florida medical offices,” referring to the similarities between Dana’s report and one of Christopher Waldron in Hillsborough County, Florida.

Previous press releases from the AKA have also suggested Dana may have used steroids, without evidence outside of him being a body builder.

“There was no discussion about the use of injectable anabolic steroids by the decedent in New York, and the possible association with hemorrhagic pulmonary edema from the use of such steroids,” said the Oct. 3 release titled “Volunteers Needed to Protect Kratom.”

There currently is no evidence that Dana used anabolic steroids, but there has also not been confirmation as to whether or not these substances were tested for.

An article titled “Report finds ‘rush to judgment’ in kratom deaths” by the editor of Pain News Network, a website covering chronic pain and pain management, states that, “Dana was a police sergeant and bodybuilder, who reportedly used steroids as part of his bodybuilding program.”

Again, while Dana was a bodybuilder, no evidence has been made public thus far that he used steroids.

An ongoing state police investigation into kratom and Dana’s death could reveal more information.

Stuart said the idea of participating in a “shadow campaign” is ridiculous, but kratom advocates say his report is suspect.

The Enterprise has also requested a copy of the coroner’s report on Dana but was denied by Franklin County. Coroners’ reports are exempt from New York’s Freedom of Information Law, except for requests by family members or others whose interest in obtaining them is deemed significant.