‘I had to watch her die in front of me’: Wilmington family warns about addictive herb kratom

Sabrina Stone remembers her sister Tanya as “feisty”.

“She was a firecracker,” Sabrina told anchor Vanessa Welch.

Sabrina reached out after seeing Boston 25′s November report on kratom concerns, and the push to regulate the legal herb here in Massachusetts and establish a minimum age to buy it. Substance abuse experts told us the herb originally grown in Asia is highly addictive.

For Sabrina and her mom Catherine Stone, the cause is a personal one.

“This is her ashes right here, and I’ve put this picture of her, it’s from high school. It’s something I look at every day to remind me of her,” Catherine Stone told Boston 25 while looking at the memorial of her daughter Tanya in the Wilmington home they shared.

Catherine and Sabrina say chronic back pain after multiple surgeries had robbed Tanya of some of her spark. Catherine says Tanya never used drugs and did not want to take prescription painkillers — so researched more “natural” alternatives.

They say Tanya began buying kratom and having it shipped to her from a store in Pennsylvania.

“She would say that in the moment when she took it, she was better. But overall, her life quality, I saw it taking a dip. She wasn’t interacting with people anymore. She was more moody, agitated,” Sabrina remembered.

Tanya passed away in July of 2022, two weeks before her 37th birthday. Her family says she had been using Kratom for roughly a year.

Catherine Stone painfully recalled Tanya’s last day: “I went to her room. She said ‘Ma, I’ve got a stomachache.’ She said ‘I don’t know what’s wrong.’”

They called an ambulance, but Catherine says she watched her daughter slip away before they arrived: “She said, ‘I can’t hear, I can’t breathe,’ takes two breaths, closes her eyes. She was gone,” Catherine said, breaking into tears.

“She wasn’t just my daughter. She was my best friend. And I had to watch her die in front of me,” Catherine sobbed.

The family says they blame kratom for Tanya’s death.

“That’s what was in her system. That’s what killed her. It’s on her death certificate,” Catherine said.

Tanya Stone suffered cardiac arrest. According to her death certificate obtained by Boston 25 News, the cause was “acute mitragynine intoxication”. Mitragyna is the main ingredient listed on the label of the kratom Tanya had been taking according to her family.

They have now hired a lawyer who is working on approximately 20 wrongful death lawsuits across the country involving kratom.

When asked what the family hopes to get out of the case, Catherine said, “Get it regulated, get it taken care of, that children can’t do it, that people can’t sell it to people. It has to be regulated. It has to be tested. It has to be it has to be controlled. It really does, because people are dying from it.”

The American Kratom Association has been strongly pushing for FDA regulation as well. In a media release this week, the group claimed it “represents millions of Americans, each of whom has a unique story to tell about the virtues of kratom and its positive effects on their lives.” The AKA says the FDA needs to prevent what it calls “dangerously adulterated kratom products” from being sold. This month, they launched “consumer guidelines for purchasing kratom safely”. You can find them here.

Doctors Boston 25 spoke with last month said you should consult your physician before starting any pain treatment.

As for the Stone family, they say they want people to learn from Tanya’s story so no one else goes through the same pain.

“There’s not enough awareness. And I’m hoping this helps out somehow,” said Sabrina Stone.

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