Dana and John Pope have never heard lattice before their 23-year-old son Ethan was found dead on the kitchen floor of his apartment last December with his puppy by his side.

Extracted from the leaves of a tropical tree that grows in Southeast Asia, kratom is used to make capsules, powders and liquids and is marketed as a pain, anxiety and drug addiction treatment. In Georgia and some other states, it is often sold at gas stations and smoke shops.

Kratom Death Lawsuit
Dana and John Pope pose with a photo of their son Ethan after a news conference at the Capitol in Atlanta on October 27, 2022.

Kate Brumback/AP

An autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation revealed that Ethan Pope died of mitrogynine intoxication and had no alcohol or drugs in his system. Mitrogynine is the psychoactive compound in kratom, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

Dana and John Pope have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against about a dozen people, companies and organizations associated with the production, marketing and sale of kratom.

They don’t know how long their son had been using kratom, but he must have been experiencing side effects, Dana Pope said at a news conference Thursday. In his apartment, they found a to-do list with one task sticking out: stop taking kratom.

The lawsuit was originally filed in May, and an expanded version was filed earlier this week. The lawyers who filed the lawsuit said they wanted to make the word that kratom is unsafe for human consumption.

“The kratom industry claims that it is a natural, completely safe substance that can promote health and well-being,” said attorney Matt Wetherington. “However, even if this were true, the kratom sold in the United States is ultra-concentrated and more similar to heroin or other opioids.”

Proponents of kratom say it is a safe, natural herbal supplement that can help manage pain and ease the effects of opioid withdrawal.

Ethan Pope bought bottles of OPMS liquid kratom days before his death. Liquid kratom injections are particularly dangerous “because they are designed to provide users with higher concentrations of mitrogynine, which significantly increases the risk of overdose and death,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that kratom manufacturers are illegally importing it, misclassifying it as an agricultural product, and have begun manufacturing, marketing and selling concentrated forms of kratom.

Kratom acts as a stimulant in low doses and a sedative in high doses. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, it can be addictive and can cause hallucinations, delusions, and confusion.

The FDA has not approved the use of kratom and “continues to warn consumers not to use products labeled as containing kratom.” This issued an import warning in 2014 allowing the seizure of kratom as an illicit drug.

“Kratom is not FDA-approved, and the agency has received reports of concern about kratom’s safety,” the agency reports on its website.

U.S. health officials said in a report released in 2019 that kratom was responsible for 91 overdose deaths in 27 states. While most of the dead also took heroin, fentanyl or other drugs, kratom was the only substance detected in the seven deaths.

Another 2019 study found that calls to US poison control centers about kratom had increased more than 50-fold, from 13 calls in 2011 to 682 calls in 2017.

The defendants in the suit negligently failed to fulfill their “duty to prevent foreseeable injuries arising out of the use of their products,” the suit says. That duty includes making truthful statements about the risks and side effects of kratom and ensuring that the product is consistent in its purity and potency, it said.

Ethan Pope used the kratom products as intended, and the defendants “failed to provide adequate warnings and instructions that the average consumer would expect, and the inadequate warnings made the kratom products more dangerous than the average consumer would expect,” the suit says.

Optimized Plant Mediated Solutions, or OPMS, which the lawsuit claims manufactured the kratom used by Ethan Pope, is named as a defendant. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent Thursday through a form on its website.

The lawsuit also alleges that American Kratom Association, a trade organization, suggests that consumers rely on “false, misleading and incomplete medical claims” about kratom. He has pushed legislation in many states that he says is intended to protect consumers but actually makes it easier to sell an unpredictable and dangerous drug, said Drew Ashby, Pope’s attorney.

“It’s unfortunate and disappointing that Georgia is one of the few states in the country that allows it to be sold legally under current law,” Ashby said, referring to a 2019 law that restricted the sale of kratom to people over 18 and enforced labeling requirements. that is stated in the lawsuit, are not fulfilled.

Daniel Delnera, a lawyer for the association, denied the allegations against her.

“The American Kratom Association is a consumer advocacy group dedicated to the education and responsible use of Kratom. It has been improperly included in this lawsuit and we will vigorously defend the false claims against it,” he said in an emailed statement.

The lawsuit seeks damages and a jury trial.