Teen dies in his sleep, Texas family blames herbal supplement, kratom

LUBBOCK, Texas – A Lubbock mother is mourning the loss of her son after she said her son passed away from taking an herbal supplement.

Shannon Minns told EverythingLubbock.com that her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a smoke shop over selling the supplement in an unmarked bag without warnings or dosage instructions, despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration.

The supplement is called kratom and is made from tree leaves that have psychoactive compounds that may be addictive. It’s typically found in smoke shops in the form of a pill or powder. Kratom is marketed as a natural energy booster, pain reliever or mood enhancer but a study by Mayo Clinic calls the substance “unsafe” and “ineffective” with 1,800 reports to poison control centers involving kratom, including several deaths.

Minns said her son recently graduated from Texas Tech High School and had big dreams of joining the air force or space force. 

“Nathan was a really silly kid. He was a self proclaimed goofball and he was really into computers and IT. He swam on the varsity swim team at Lubbock High, he was very athletic. He worked out almost daily and he liked to stay active and healthy. He was just a sweet boy, he was always my sweet boy,” said Minns.

As Nathan entered a new chapter in his life, he developed some depression and anxiety. 

“I mean you’re 18, 19 years old and you’re trying to figure out where your place is in this world and you’re going through adult-like struggles for the first time ever,” said Minns. 

Nathan was disciplined and determined to reach his goals and knew he couldn’t enlist in the military while on medication for his anxiety so he searched for what was marketed as a healthy alternative route to his symptoms. 

“I think he was looking for a natural alternative to his anxiety medication so that he wasn’t on a pill,” said Minns. 

Nathan bought kratom from a local smoke shop; his family believed he fell into the hands of the herbal supplement’s healthy marketing and that it’s what ultimately led to his death. Nathan continued his regular routine the night before his death by going to the gym and meal prepping, taking the supplement as tea before bed. 

“That’s the only thing that was out of the ordinary was that it appears that he had taken it to go to sleep because his alarm was set for work. He was in his normal sleep position and pattern and so it appears he took it to help him relax and go to sleep, and he just didn’t wake up,” said Minns.

In 2019, the CDC analyzed over 20 thousand reports of unintentional drug overdoses and found that kratom was the cause of death for 91 one of those. 

“He couldn’t buy a nicotine vape until he was 21 at the store but he can go and buy a substance that binds to your opiate receptors and is known to have similar effects as an opiate, like heroin and things like that and he can walk in and buy that at 18 years old,” said Minns.

The supplement was sold to Nathan in a brown bag without warnings or dosage instructions, but his family said all he wanted was to get better to achieve his goals. 

Shortly before his death, Nathan wrote plans for his purpose in life in his journal, reading “I want to be positive yet firm in my beliefs. My purpose in life is to make an impact into other people’s lives.”

“I know that he wanted to make an impact on this world for the better. That was his one goal in life, whether that was through his job or whatever,” said Minns. “And if I can continue doing that even in his passing and do something that helps other people and saves other people, then I feel like he will be proud of the legacy that he left behind.”