Lawsuit Claims Addiction to Purple Lotus Kava Bar's Kratom-Laced Drink
"This is what $15,000 worth of kratom looks like," Michael Siegel remembers Purple Lotus Bar owner Jimmy Scianno saying as he lifted a brick of the brown powder over his head.
All photos by Jess Swanson This is the drink Erica Siegel was addicted to, and once we heard about it, we had to try it too!
The bar then broke out in chatter. Some people just stared in awe. Others half-jokingly plotted ways to swipe the goods. Everyone kept sipping their murky tea of kava and kratom, their eyes peering over coconut-shell cups.
That was 18 months ago. Kratom's currently banned in Thailand, Australia, Myanmar, Malaysia, and recently Indiana and Tennessee. Kratom was legal in Florida then, and it still is now.
Some argue it weans addicts off stronger drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methadone, and others simply like the way it makes them feel. But then there's Michael Siegel, who believes that kratom ripped apart his family -- his wife, Erica Siegel, is currently at a rehab center in Boca Raton to combat her addiction to kratom, he says.
Kava is an ancient Fijian infusion made from the roots of the kava plant. A taste combination somewhere between muddy water and soap, kava -- plainly put -- doesn't taste good. Yet the people of the South Pacific hold to its sacred powers. It's supposedly mind-altering and slows the processing of dopamine. It definitely numbs the tongue on first sip.
Kratom too is from the South Pacific, but that's the only intrinsic similarity between both plants. Kratom comes from the coffee family, kava from the pepper root. Kratom is an opiate substitute and, allegedly, extremely addictive. Kava isn't. And it's kratom that is slowly becoming illegal around the nation, not kava.
There are those who swear kratom is harmless, but it was a kratom-laced kava drink that Erica Siegel had at Purple Lotus almost two years ago that allegedly provoked her addiction.
Michael and Erica Siegel are from West Palm Beach. They have been married for eight years and have a 2-year-old daughter. Five years ago, Erica battled an alcohol addiction. She eventually sobered up. Two years later, a friend of theirs, a yoga instructor at Purple Lotus Kava Bar, told the recovering alcoholic about kava.
"My wife suffers from anxiety, and she tried doing yoga and other more holistic approaches than doing pharmaceuticals to combat her anxiety. There was a discussion about kava, and my wife decided to give it a try."
Michael then explained that his wife sat at the bar, looked up on the drink board, and ordered the first thing on the menu: the komodo.
"She looked at a drink board that lists a variety of different drinks not knowing what was in them," Michael stresses. "The ingredients are not being listed; they are not being disclosed. So my wife ordered a komodo... At the time, we didn't know there was any kratom in it or what kratom even was.
"The person behind the bar said it gives you a feeling of calmness and a burst of energy and a euphoric passion. He described it in a way where, who wouldn't want to take it?"