Veterans for Kratom: How the Plant Saved a War Hero’s Life & Why He Won’t Back Down

When thinking about those who benefit from kratom, many get skewed images in their minds due to the media’s coverage of the herb. And who can blame them, when countless times outright lies have been published, including so-called deaths attributed to kratom? What they don’t realize is that in each of the autopsies performed for the aforementioned, in every single case, the bodies had other substances, such as fentanyl, in their systems? Yet kratom was blamed. A book could be written about this topic alone. For now, let’s take a look at the life of a war veteran who said kratom in fact saved his life.

Imagine going to war for your country, only to come home with severe physical and mental ailments that you try time and again to get help for, only to be turned down, or simply treated as a number for. You get loads of prescriptions handed to you, that might help a little bit here and there, but overall your situation is bleak. You’ve tried everything, but nothing is working. Nothing can take away the misery of what you’re feeling both physically and mentally speaking. But just when you decide that you’ve had enough, that this life isn’t worth living any longer, you hear about something natural that people claim has saved their own lives.

In a nutshell, this is what happened to Andrew Turner (who goes by “Drew”), a 46-year-old disabled war veteran, and cancer survivor who resides with his wife, Karen, in Michigan. Turner spoke with Top Extracts, and we’re going to share his heartfelt story with you. The veteran is living proof that kratom is a life-changing herb that truly does save lives, and not only for those who have suffered from addiction.

When Turner first heard about kratom, he told Top Extracts that he “honestly thought it was snake oil,” i.e. it was too good to be true. This is a common misconception when it comes to the herb, as some testimonials do in fact sound too good to be true.

Where it All Began

Turner began his military service with the Navy at the age of 30, and served for just over nine years. He was deployed in Iraq, Gitmo, and wherever he was needed. Turner was part of an expeditionary security unit, where he was assigned to small teams doing all different types of work.

In 2012, Turner was medically separated from the military. However, he continued working, acquiring  a job with a federal law enforcement agency where he worked in an administrative role. During this time, the Navy veteran developed a rare movement disorder called Meige Syndrome, which is a form of dystonia.  The disorder, according to Turner, caused “spasms” in his neck and face. While Meige Syndrome is typically found genetically, doctors believe Turner’s case is tied to a “psychosomatic situation,” and may have been acquired due to damage caused by a traumatic brain injury that Turner suffered while he was deployed. Another possible connection to the rare disease could be due to Turner’s exposure to burn pits. He described burn pits as “giant fields where they [the military] just threw all of the trash and lit it on fire.” Turner continued:

Military trash in a warzone could be anything from computer systems, to expended ammunition, to body parts that were amputated at a field hospital…on top of which some of these burn pits they believe were positioned on top of ammunition dumps from the Iraqi military. So that leached up into the smoke, along with all of the other stuff, and this smoke was pouring outside our base day in and day out. And you wind up getting exposed to it, much like the 9/11 responders got exposed to a lot of things that are now killing them – or like Agent Orange in Vietnam. 

Because of the debilitating effects of Meige Syndrome, Turner was forced to leave his federal government job in 2013. “On a daily basis, I would look like a bobble-head,” he stated. “When it got really bad, I couldn’t see.” 

Stopping Over 20 Daily Medications & the Search for Natural Alternatives

For approximately the next year and a half, Turner wound up working with the head of Mental Health Services at the VA in Washington D.C.  As it turned out, fate was working in Turner’s favor – the only doctor who had experience with Meige Syndrome happened to practice at the VA facility he was treated at. Still, the disease even baffled his doctor. Turner was given a plethora of medications to see if they would help, as the “doctor wasn’t really sure what to do.”

While he was suffering from Meige Syndrome, Turner was also plagued by several other ailments, including military-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He also lost the use of one of his hands due to an injury that occurred during his service with the Navy. Additionally, the veteran has degenerative disc disease, an extremely painful condition.

In late 2014, Turner was taking over 20 medications per day, and the side effects were nothing short of horrendous. He explained:

There were times when I would zombie out for days, even weeks at a time. I’d have accidents and couldn’t clean myself. It got to a point in 2015 that my doctor could tell that I was losing hope. Especially with the case of military/veteran suicides, it became so normal to see that, and I think that my doctor realized things were going downhill really fast. So we started talking about trying to do something different. And so it was my doctor who got me on the path that wound up leading to kratom. But it took a little while. I was doing a lot of research online when I wasn’t sleeping from all of the meds. 

Over the course of about a month and a half, Turner was tapered off of everything possible. Thankfully, he never experienced withdrawal symptoms from taking strong narcotic painkillers, including hydromorphone, the generic form of Dilaudid – an extremely strong narcotic pain reliever.

At the same time, Turner began a “pretty intense exercise regime.” Along with his doctors, he began looking at alternatives such as CBD and cannabis, and other natural substances that might not only combat pain, but also be able to address underlying conditions he was suffering from, including PTSD and anxiety issues. The aforementioned disorders only excacberated the Meige Syndrome that Turner was trying so desperately to deal with.

Finding Hope

During this time period in Turner’s life, it was 2015 – and kratom didn’t have nearly the following that it does today. As Turner put it, the only information available was found “in small groups on such platforms as Facebook and Reddit.” Taking his time, the war veteran learned as much as possible about it, before going to his doctors with what he had discovered. Even then, he, like many, believed kratom could be nothing more than “snake oil.” But he kept hearing such similar stories of hope, and thought to himself, “something is different here.” Also at this point, kratom wasn’t readily available where he was residing, in Washington D.C.

“While it sounded too good to be true,” Turner explained, “I didn’t have anything else to cling onto.” He continued:

So I told the doctor this [kratom] is what I think I want to try. He found every study he could find, I found as many as I could find, and we kind of looked through it and for a couple of weeks we talked about it. He kept looking and he said, ‘I can’t recommend this because I’m a federal doctor, but if you’re willing to try this, and you find a company that you feel confident is doing things properly, we will dedicate time to oversee you. They were even going to do a case study on me…it was started but not completed. 

Learning about kratom gave Turner the sense of hope he was yearning for, and he knew he had to at least give it a try. This way he would find out for himself if it was the “real deal,” or “snake oil.”

Beginning Kratom With the Support of His Doctors

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It is important to note that Turner’s doctor didn’t know if there would be interactions with kratom and the medications he was on. At the time, he was “pretty much tapered off of pain medications,” with little to none left in his system.  But he added that the doctor was confident enough after studying the herb that “it wouldn’t kill me.” 

In about May of 2015, Turner ordered his first taste of kratom, in the form of a tincture. He had heard about it’s putrid flavor, and thought this would be the best way to start out. He took the tincture for about a week, but disappointingly, “it was honestly doing nothing.”

“It really was soul crushing to find out when I said it was snake oil, that it really seemed to be,” Turner stated.

Turner’s doctor knew he was “borderline suicidal” at the time, and refused to give up on his patient, who had fought for the lives of others, only to be left wanting to take his own life. The physician had read extremely positive reviews about kratom in powder form, and suggested Turner try that route instead of the tincture. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.

“Within a day or two, things just changed,” Turner told Top Extracts, adding that he mixed the powder with cranberry-grape juice to mask the taste. “The pain was manageable, it wasn’t gone, but it was bearable. And so for awhile there I’m doing the same thing everyday, taking notes of what I was taking and at what time. “

Every other week Turner would bring all of the information he was collecting to his doctor. He diligently kept track of his temperature, blood pressure, and “really did this the right way.” He was finally feeling confident:

And I feel really confident about how it worked out. But what’s kind of strange is it addressed the pain and it addressed the anxiety, but over time, the movement disorder sort of went away. And so that was when we figured out [the Meige Syndrome] was psychosomatic. And it’s still around, I can still feel it…little twinges everyday in my face and my neck, but that’s typically when my anxiety level is up. As long as I can address my anxiety issues, the movement disorder kind of drifts away.

Getting Involved With Activism to Save Kratom

For the next year or so, Turner “sat on the edges of the kratom community,” and spoke with people who were high up in the movement in order to keep it legal. After taking kratom for about a year and a half, he reached out to the American Kratom Association (AKA) to find out about lobbying, and how he might be able to help.

“I told the AKA that without this [kratom], I’ll be dead,” Turner said. “There’s not a question in my mind that suicide would wind up on the table.”

Turner then made a Youtube video (his first ever) calling out the DEA, having no idea what the reaction would be. A week later he logged back on, and saw that he had nearly an astounding 20,000 views! He then reached back out to connections he made via Facebook and other groups, along with the AKA, who asked if he would be willing to speak at the White House for a kratom rally. He replied, “absolutely.”

After speaking at the rally, Turner made a series of videos. Only this time, he wasn’t on kratom. His goal? To give people a firsthand look at the movement disorder, Meige Syndrome, that he was suffering from. From that point on, he became “very actively involved.”

In addition to speaking at the White House and creating Youtube videos for kratom activism, Turner impressively starred in the Netflix film, “A Leaf of Faith,” a documentary on the herb. He has also spoken out via several podcasts on the subject.

Even Cancer Couldn’t Stop This War Hero

In January of 2018, Turner began getting incredibly sick. A subsequent trip to the doctor revealed spots in his sinuses that were cancerous. It was believed this was also due to his exposure to the burn pits while serving in Iraq. At this point, the war hero was merely too weak and run-down to continue what had become a devout passion of advocating for kratom.

During his cancer treatments, despite being offered pain medication by his medical team, Turner didn’t feel the need. He said he told his doctors, “I think I can do this with kratom,” and he did. This came with the full support of his oncologists.

Last year, after a grueling six years of trying to upgrade his military separation to retirement, Turner became “officially medically retired.” And just a couple of months ago, Turner finished his third cycle of chemotherapy. And the best news? His doctors believe “this is it,” and haven’t seen any of the cancer resurface.

I asked Turner if he believed he wouldn’t be here to do this interview if kratom hadn’t been available to him. “Yes, that’s absolutely accurate,” he responded.

Nothing can stop this headstrong veteran from getting back into kratom activism, which Turner said will happen “very soon.” He also has plans to finish a book he has already started writing, in addition to helping to create a film on the herb.

We can’t wait to see where you go, Drew Turner, and wish you nothing but the best as we eagerly continue to follow your heroic journey.


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