LOUISIANA (KLFY) — Healthcare professionals and law enforcement officials across Acadiana are raising awareness against the drug known as kratom.

Sheriff Charles Guillory of Evangeline parish said, “I went to a sheriffs association meeting and training. The main subject we talked about was kratom being transported to the United States.”

Kratom, a plant that grows in southeast Asia, has presented many challenges to healthcare professionals.

Katie Porche, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, said, “It’s definitely something we’re challenged with, most recently the popularity has increased. One of the biggest challenges is that people are able to purchase it over the counter, they can get it at gas stations and they just considered it a dietary supplement.”

Porche said kratom presents many dangers to its users.

“It acts on the same receptors of the brain that other opioids do. Your morphine receptors, heroine, fentanyl, all of those things. You can develop a dependency to that substance, you can experience severe withdrawal symptoms and you can experience respiratory distress, cardiovascular, acute medical issues.”

Medical issues that can lead to death from overdose. These health hazards are leading law enforcement to push for kratom to be illegal in Louisiana.

Guillory said, “The problem I worry about is that kratom will cause death. The D.E.A. currently is trying to pass laws on the federal level to make it illegal to be brought into the United States; two or three sheriffs have already passed ordinances in their respective parishes to make it a misdemeanor offense carrying up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine for either possessing or selling kratom.”

The Louisiana Department of Health also wants to visit schools across Acadiana to educate students on the dangers of Kratom.