Last spring in Seminole, Florida, a man with Down syndrome died because his caretaker experienced a Kratom overdose and fell asleep. John LaPointe, the victim, was unable to care for himself and reportedly had the cognitive abilities of an infant. John was in a van with his caretaker, Joshua Russell, and could not escape when the vehicle heated up to 125 degrees.

Following John’s death, caretaker Joshua Russell was subsequently arrested for aggravated manslaughter of a disabled adult. According to a news release from the sheriff, Russell stopped by his home after taking LaPointe to a doctor’s appointment. Here, he overdosed on kratom and fell asleep in the van, leaving the young man buckled up in the backseat. When Russell awoke around two hours later, LaPointe was unresponsive.

Is Kratom Illegal?

Currently, kratom is legal in most states. However, nine states have either banned or are in the process of banning the substance. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has continued debating whether or not the drug should be made illegal on the federal level.

The biggest argument for banning kratom is that the drug is addictive and creates psychoactive effects. Others believe the substance should remain legal, as it could be a key resource in battling the U.S. opioid epidemic. Because it can produce effects similar to opioids, many people who are addicted to opioids use kratom to prevent withdrawal symptoms and to taper off of opioid drugs.

Kratom Use Statistics

There are few studies that are able to provide kratom addiction statistics. However, it is known that kratom creates effects that are similar to opioids as well as stimulants. The drug can cause sedation, pain relief and feelings of pleasure when used in large amounts. For these reasons, kratom use can lead to dependence and addiction.

Kratom death statistics show that between 2011 and 2017, there were 11 deaths linked to kratom use. Nine of these cases involved other drugs, but two occurred from kratom alone. In 2017, there were at least 44 deaths tied to kratom use.

Signs of Kratom Addiction

In Florida, a man died because someone took too much kratom. To avoid the risk of life-altering consequences, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of kratom use and addiction.

The side effects of Kratom use can include:

  • Sedation
  • Pleasure
  • Pain relief
  • Nausea
  • Itchiness
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Constipation

People who are addicted to kratom and begin experiencing withdrawal may have:

  • Aches and pains in the muscles
  • Irritability or hostility
  • Insomnia
  • Aggression
  • Changes in mood and emotions
  • Runny nose

If you see any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, kratom addiction treatment may be needed. Orlando Recovery Center has many treatment plans and programs that can help you recover from substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health issues. Contact us today to learn more about options that can work well for you.


Florida man with Down syndrome died in h[…]m overdose: sheriff.” Fox 35. September 21, 2019. Accessed October 27, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is kratom?” April 2019. Accessed October 27, 2019.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. “19-250 Detectives Arrest Man For Aggrava[…]n Sweltering Minivan.” Accessed November 8, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.