Carpenter, 39, from wealthy Oregon neighborhood dies from ‘violent seizures’ after taking opioid-like herbal supplement – as family sue smoke shop for M

Carpenter, 39, from wealthy Oregon neighborhood dies from ‘violent seizures’ after taking opioid-like herbal supplement – as family sue smoke shop for $10M

A 39-year-old carpenter died from severe seizures after taking the herbal substance kratom in 2021.

Matthew Torres was living in Beavercreek with his longtime girlfriend Meghan Gates and enjoyed creating hand-crafted decor items he would share with family and friends.

Mr Torres was found ‘foaming at the mouth’ by Ms Gates in the wealthy Clackamas County in Oregon.

She performed CPR on Mr Torres until emergency responders arrived, but he was declared dead on May 27, 2021, one month before his 40th birthday.

The coroner determined Torres’ cause of death as ‘toxic effects of mitragynine’ – the active compound in kratom, a herbal substance that is rising in popularity for the opioid and stimulant-like effects it produces.

His mother, Mary Torres, sued the smoke shop that sold it to him and is seeking $10million in damages.

Carpenter, 39, from wealthy Oregon neighborhood dies from ‘violent seizures’ after taking opioid-like herbal supplement – as family sue smoke shop for M

Matthew Torres, 39, with his mother Mary Torres

The kratom Mr Torres was taking

The product's packet shows '100 percent pure mitragyna speciosa leaf powder' as the ingredient

The kratom Mr Torres was taking. The product’s packet shows ‘100 percent pure mitragyna speciosa leaf powder’ as the ingredient

He had been using kratom to manage his ‘his pain and muscular ailments’, the lawsuit said, which he thought it was not addictive and had less side effects than opioids.

Kratom is a tree, also called mitragyna speciosa, which grows in Southeast Asia. 

Mitragynine is one of its main psychoactive components, according to a December 2021 World Health Organization report.

It is often eaten by chewing its leaves or consuming the leaves in powdered form, and has been rising in popularity as an alternative pain-relieving substance.

Mr Torres was consuming the power as a drink.

According to the lawsuit, Mr Torres had been using a product called ‘Real Kratom’ which he bought from House of Pipes, a chain of smoke shops in the Portland area.

The product’s packet shows ‘100 percent pure mitragyna speciosa leaf powder’ as the ingredient.

Mr Torres worked as a skilled carpenter and was living with his girlfriend in Beavercreek, roughly a 20-mile drive southeast of Portland.

There are no products containing kratom or its two main chemical components that are legally on the market in the US, the FDA said, it is sold in stores and online.

Mr Torres was using kratom for 'his pain and muscular ailments,' as he thought it was a 'non-addictive substitute to pharmaceuticals'

Mr Torres was using kratom for ‘his pain and muscular ailments,’ as he thought it was a ‘non-addictive substitute to pharmaceuticals’

According to the FDA, kratom is often used to self-treat pain, coughing, diarrhea, anxiety and depression, opioid use disorder, and opioid withdrawal.

An estimated 1.7 million Americans aged 12 and above used kratom in 2021, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In small doses, kratom can produce stimulant effects, the CDC said, and in higher doses, it can give effects mimicking opioids. 

In Southeast Asia, kratom has been used for centuries and is accepted as part of everyday life, similar to how drinking coffee is in the US, according to Christopher McCurdy, a professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida and an internationally recognized kratom expert, who previously spoke with McClatchy News.

There has not been enough scientific data to assess the safety of kratom, the FDA said, and it can lead to liver toxicity, seizures, substance use disorder and even death.

The lawsuit filed over Torres’ death says House of Pipes – and all ‘kratom involved business’ entities – have never said that kratom was safe.

But House of Pipes has profited off of selling ‘dangerous’ kratom products to Mr Torres and others, according to the complaint.

‘I urge kratom consumers to do their homework regarding the product…  Sellers of kratom don’t tell you that it’s addictive and that you can die from it,’ said Tamara  Williams, an mctlaw attorney, told McClatchy News. 

‘Until it’s deemed safe and approved for use, don’t use it.’

If House of Pipes made Mr Torres aware of the risks of kratom, his death could have been avoided, the complaint said.

‘The kratom industry appears to be organized a lot like a drug cartel. Kratom manufacturers, distributors, and sellers try to conceal their ownership and financial activities to avoid accountability,’ said Michael Cowgill, an mctlaw attorney representing Mr Torres’ family.

‘Families like the Torres’ have had enough of this deception and deserve justice,’ Mr Cowgill added.

The case is one of the most recent kratom-related wrongful death lawsuits filed in America.

Last year, mother-of-four Krystal Talavera collapsed and died after taking kratom in 2021. 

Her eldest son, Devin Filippelli, sued Kratom distributor Grow LLC over her death and a judge ruled they have to pay more than $11million in damages. 

Mctlaw also represented that case.

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