Credit: Bloomberg

U.S. hunger for opioid alternative drives boom in Borneo jungle

…thanks to the opioid epidemic in the U.S., one of the hottest local commodities is a controversial plant called kratom that fans call a natural alternative to synthetic painkillers but U.S. regulators say isn’t safe. Demand from the U.S. has turned Kapuas Hulu into a boom town: Newly affluent residents have built additions to their houses and workers drive the latest model Honda motorcycles.

As the death toll from opioid overdoses rises, Americans looking for different ways to relieve chronic pain or to wean themselves off painkillers have turned to kratom, a coffee-like evergreen that Southeast Asian farmers have long chewed to relieve pain.

Yoga Rusmana and Bruce Einhorn in Bloomberg.