Michael Napolitano is an army veteran who describes himself as a “street guy.” Mike is 57 years old from New York, NY. He started using pain pills when he was 15, which led to a lifelong opiate addiction. Mike cleaned up for six years while in the army, but started back again shortly after being discharged. An opiate addiction led to a life of crime, which resulted in prison time for killing two men in self-defense in a street altercation where he was shot in the face. Mike spent 18 years behind bars “in the worst prisons of New York”. In the summer of 2018, he started using kratom after swearing off opiates following a car accident. He regards kratom as a “miracle plant”, that helped him get clean from opiates, gives him energy, and allows him to deal with PTSD and anxiety.
Kratom Science: So you’re an army veteran?
Michael Napolitano: Yes, that’s correct.
KS: And you’re from New York?
Yes. Born and raised. Actually I was born on the army base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky
KS: Was your father stationed there?
MN: Yeah he was stationed in the army there. I was born there and came to New York when I was six months old. His family’s all here. My father’s family is all from New York.
My mother’s from Tennessee, actually. I’m an Italian American-Indian. That’s my mix. It’s a good mix. I like the Indian part. I guess that’s where I get my strength from.
KS: When did you first start using kratom?
MN: I started using kratom about August of last year. August 2018. I was using prescription pain meds, then I couldn’t get my prescription pain meds, so I was using street drugs. I was snorting heroin. I guess bad things happen for a reason. What happened was, I hit a pothole, my tire arch snapped and I hit two parked cars. So I pulled up, it was maybe half a block away and I pulled up, sat down. Next thing I know, I’m being locked up. I wanted to be honest because, you know, I was just calm, I was just relaxed. I wasn’t high. What happened was a malfunction in the car. I figured I could tell them I took my medicine that morning, and whatever.. Like I jerk I tell them, you know, “Yeah, I took my medicine early this morning.” Next thing I know I’m in handcuffs. I’m in jail, I’m in central booking. They arrest me for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident, and hit and run. Check that out. They made me sound like I was doing some kind of a mass car chase or something. And here’s the kicker, I figured, even the cop he says, “Don’t worry about it. You’ll be out tomorrow.” Two days later I go in front of the judge, and the district attorney blows me a new asshole…because I did 18 years. I was locked up for 18 years.
KS: Oh, wow.
MN: Yeah, but I’d been home since ’96. He’s putting it out there like it just happened. He goes, “This man is a menace to society. He’s this and that.” But listen to this though. The judge, I have to give him props for this because the judge looks at him and goes, “Are you done? Are you done?” [The DA] goes, “Yes your honor. And I’m asking for a $10,000 bail.” I was like, What? A $10,000 bail? I seen a guy that just molested a little kid go out on ROR and everything and they want me for $10,000 bail? The judge goes like this, “Nah, I don’t think so.” He goes,”First of all, sir, you’re gonna give me your license.” I says, “You got it your honor.” Boom. I actually threw that license at him, like, Here ya go! Here ya go! He goes, “Now I’m gonna ROR you and you gotta come back..” I was like, phew, thank God. He didn’t listen to one word the DA said, which was good. It was like a flashback because I hadn’t been in that situation. I came home in 1996. That’s how long its been since I’d been in anything with the law. It was like flashbacks. My head was going all kinds of crazy, you know?
Right there and then I was sick and tired of using the opiates and street drugs and whatnot. That was it.
And what happened was.. I had heard a lot about kratom before that. I had a good friend of mine who was telling me “Mike, check it out.” So I started Googling, I starting looking on line about a lot of stuff. I said to myself, it couldn’t be any worse than the shit that I was doing. I miss the part where, right before that, somebody tried to hook me up with a hot bag. A bad bag, to kill me. They gave me a bag and it had fentanyl in it. I went out, kind of a seizure, and they took me to the hospital and everything.This was right before the thing with the car happened. So everything led up to that. Like I said, I was doing some research online about the kratom. So a friend of mine – I have a lot of friends from drugs and the street – I have a lot of friends that are using kratom to stay off the opiates and stuff. So a friend of mine he’s a vendor. He’s Red Devil Kratom. His kratom was like top-of-the-line, fresh, everything. So he gave me about $200 worth of kratom for like $50. Because he was a good friend. I’ve known him for a while. He goes “Mike, here, if I can help you out.. if it’s gonna help you stay clean.” He hooked me up with some CBD lollipops and all of that.
Right there and then is when I started my kratom journey, I call it. To this day, since I’m taking kratom I don’t even have a thought of a street drug or anything else. Because kratom is all I need. It takes care of my anxiety. It takes care of the pain that I got. I got bullet wounds in my face and my back. I got arthritis throughout my back. What else? I got a pin in my finger. You know, I got all kinds of different pains. And being locked up all those years, I have serious PTSD. From being locked in a cage for all those years, and I was in the worst prisons in New York. Which is no joke. I seen guys get stabbed in the eyeballs, and their heads, like, spikes going through… like only stuff that you would see in a movie. I seen it all. I tell you, I sleep like a baby at night, since taking the kratom. And I don’t abuse it. I take between six and seven grams, three to four times a day. Which, I thought it was a lot but a lot of people say it’s not, they say that’s about right. For 14 months. And I think maybe I got the wobbles like two or three times. What really burns me up is when I see articles where they’re portraying somebody overdosing – there’s no way. I can eat a whole pound of it! That’s what get me sick. That’s like saying if i drink too much coffee, I’m gonna die. That’s what they’re saying. Are you serious?
KS: I think a lot of people are lying. They’re still on heroin and they’re telling their family it’s just kratom.
MN: Exactly, yep. You know what it is too? For a person like me, I’m a street guy, and I’ve been doing drugs since I’m 15, I’ve been doing street drugs and whatnot. So I know the lie. The lie is, “Oh no I’m not! I’m just taking the kratom!” And meanwhile they just did three or four bags of dope. The kratom doesn’t do nothing.
Here’s another thing. After that happened, after I started taking kratom, I had like three or four pain pills left. One day I didn’t feel like – because I take the kratom and I mix it in the grapefruit juice, the little ritual. One morning I woke up.. I took the kratom first, then I took one of the pain pills. I was like “What the hell? Did these things go stale? I don’t feel them.” It actually blocked it. I was on the methadone program years ago. I know the methadone is a blocker, it blocks any opiates. And that’s exactly what the kratom did. I was like wow, it’s amazing. I just took that one pill and that was it…
“Right there and then is when I started my kratom journey, I call it. To this day, since I’m taking kratom I don’t even have a thought of a street drug or anything else. “
KS: So it completely knocked out the effects of the pain pill?
MN: Exactly. I didn’t even feel the pain pill. I was like, Wow. Honestly the stuff that I hear about kratom is like amazing. I can’t explain the feeling. You have to take kratom to know the actual feeling. Because it’s not a high, it’s like a body feeling. The euphoria, you get a certain sense of well-being. I can’t even explain it. The thing is too, in 14 months, I’ve taken it every day. I went maybe one or two days without it. But here’s the thing – I see people talking about withdrawals. Honestly I don’t see any withdrawals, I don’t have them. I just felt a little tired as if I’d missed a cup of coffee. That’s all. I guess, to each his own. Certain people, they put it in their mind that they’re gonna get [withdrawals], and it happens. But no, I was like, I stopped for a day, then I was like, there’s no reason for me to stop. It’s not hurting me. If anything it’s just helping me. Everybody sees it. My wife sees it. My daughter sees it. My son sees it. Everybody sees it. You know? I’m normal again, put it that way. That’s what it does. It makes me normal. I’m not scratching. I’m not robbing anybody or sticking a gun in nobody’s face. It’s just not me anymore. It’s just me and my dog.
He has a thing with his hip, he takes pet CBD. I gave him a little red bali one time, maybe a dab. I says, God I’ll never do it again. I thought I killed him. He was knocked out. He was fine though. I gave him a little bit and he was gone, he was ass-out, he was on his bed. Snoring away! I put my hand by his nose to see if he was still breathing. I says, Oh my god! My heart was beating. My wife was like “What’d you do?” And I was like “Nah, he’s just tired.” I didn’t wanna tell her.
KS: Yeah? *laughs*
MN: I always check it out first. I’ll research it first. But they say that dogs can ingest kratom. That what I’ve read, but I don’t wanna.. my boy doesn’t need it. I got a boxer. He’s full breed. He’s four years old. I got him in training. I got him right now, he’s right next to me. My psychiatrist is gonna make him my service dog. Emotional support dog. He gets a little irritated when I’m on the phone. They’re like humans sometimes. He’ll get insulted cause I’m not playing with him. I’ll throw his ball around. But he’s my buddy. Honestly, the unconditional love you get. All is I need is my dog and my kratom, and I’m good, you know?
My experience with the kratom is phenomenal. I can’t explain it. I took a course in college, Body Health and Disease. I always had that in my head, knowing what to eat, what to take, and this and that. You feel it yourself. If your body’s feeling something wrong or whatever, you feel that. It’s common sense. Knock wood, in 14 months, I haven’t gotten a cold once. I haven’t gotten a cold, I haven’t gotten sick, anything.
KS: Yeah it really helps with colds in my experience.
MN: Yeah, I attribute that all to the kratom. It may sound funny but it’s like a cure-all. Somebody wrote something about it being a cure-all, you know, and it does. I mean there’s not much that it doesn’t cure. People talk about they get constipated and everything? I’m just the opposite. In the morning I get up, and boom, I’m like clockwork. Every morning I get up, boom. I fill the bowl and I’m good for the day. That’s good thing. You know the feeling when you take a nice dump in the morning? That’s how I start my day every day.
Here’s the thing too. I’m not working. I’m on disability. But I’m fiending so much for a job because I have so much energy, and I have nothing to do. I play with the dog. My wife says, “Get a job!” I’m a veteran so I’m entitled to a lot of things [benefits]. I worked at the veterans’ hospital for a while. This is going back years but, I don’t wanna go back there because what they do is, they want to give you the money they’re paying you on disability to work in the hospital. Why would I wanna do that? Like, seriously? I mean, I know I want something to do, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of, you know? But that’s neither here nor there.
The kratom, I can’t say enough good things about it. I go online, I go to a few groups too, like support groups, kratom support groups and whatnot. I have yet to see anybody that’s in those groups give kratom a bad rap. Unless, like you were saying, unless they added something with it and got sick or whatever. I’m not a drinker, but we went out to dinner one night, and everybody was having drinks. And I had like half a glass of wine, and I didn’t even finish it. I took a couple sips. And I was like, oh my God, I was like twisted. I don’t like feeling like this. I’m not a drinker. But it was because I took my kratom earlier.
KS: I’ve heard that. I talked to a guy who said he was a heavy drinker for 25 years. He started taking kratom. All of a sudden one day, he just stopped getting beers out of the fridge. He just didn’t want to drink anymore.
MN: The only reason I did it was because everybody was drinking, it was a restaurant, everybody was having wine. I said, I’ll take a half a glass, and a I took a couple of sips. Next thing you know I was spinning. It was like I drank a whole bottle of wine. That’s how I felt. I was like “What the hell?” After that I said, Nope, I’m not gonna touch liquor no more either. My mother worked in a bar for 30 years. I used to go in the bar all the time, stoned on pills, everybody’d be like, “I want what he’s drinking!” I’m like, “No, you don’t want what I’m drinking.” I’d be at the end of the bar whacked out of my face on pills.
But like I said, since the kratom came into my life.. you know how they say “You live to use and use to live”? That’s how I used to be. Now, forget it. I spend maybe $100, if that, on kratom. And it lasts me three months. I get some very good quality stuff.
I tell you, it has so many benefits. Even in like the sexual department. Oh my god, forget about it. I never had a problem, but now, forget about it. I’m like Joe Stud. My wife is like, “Again? Are you serious? Again?” Honestly I’m 57, I feel like I’m 25.
Yeah, that’s a good benefit.
MN: I see people who say, “Oh did anybody lose their libido?”, this and that. I’m like no way, just the opposite. You know what I think? You can lose your libido if you abuse it. If you take too much, that’ll do it. Because I noticed, that if I took an extra teaspoon or something like that, it make me a little queasy. Anything in moderation, if it’s good, it’s good. But when you start abusing it, that’s when the shit hits the fan.
I’m going on and on. About an hour ago I did a little yellow Maeng da and Green Vietnam.
KS: Do you just toss and wash it, or do you make a tea, or…?
MN: I take some pink grapefruit juice. I take like a quarter of a cup, I warm it up, and I mix it in there. I put it in the refrigerator. You know how people try to get the red bubble? I try to do that all the time but it doesn’t work all the time. I think it potentiates it when you leave it in the freezer. I leave it in the freezer maybe a half hour, 45 minutes, and then I drink it.
I look on all the sites, I know a lot about it. I’m not an expert, but I know what I gotta do.
KS: Were you a combat veteran? Is that where you got your gunshot wounds?
MN: No I wasn’t a combat veteran. More like a combat street guy.
“The guy pulled out a gun. He shot me in the face, in the cheek. And I put two in his head and I put two in his nephew’s chest.”
KS: So you got your PTSD and anxiety from being in prison?
MN: Yeah. Basically, the army was like a phase for me. I enjoyed it. I went through everything. I missed Vietnam. I was in after Vietnam was over. I didn’t see any war. But I seen my own war when I got to the streets. What happened was, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The guy pulled out a gun. He shot me in the face, in the cheek. And I put two in his head and I put two in his nephew’s chest.
KS: So that’s what you went to prison for…
MN: Yeah. Do I regret it? No. He tried to take my life. Why would I regret it? You know what I mean? It’s either me or you and it definitely ain’t gonna be me. I’m not gonna say “Ok kill me and go about your business.” I just did what I had to do and that was it, you know?
KS: Why did you think you started getting into heroin?
MN: I had a long history. I started when I was 15. I started out with the weed. I started smoking a little weed. That was no big deal. I started drinking some beer. What happened was I was at my grandmother’s house, and I was going through her medicine cabinets, and I found some Valiums and stuff like that. I ate a couple of those, I felt nice. Next thing I know it was just like, just to get away from stuff. To get out of my own head. It became more like a peer thing, with people just hanging out, everybody’s getting high, you know? I wanna get high because I want to feel in place. Then after a while… It was a party until I was maybe 19, after that it just became a habit. One day I’d be like, I’m just gonna do it on Friday and Saturday. Then it became Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Then it became Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday… then the next thing I know I was using about every day.
KS: Did that continue all through the military and prison?
MN: It stopped when I went into the military. I didn’t do it. After I got out I stayed clean for a little bit. Then it started again. I didn’t do heroin until I was maybe 22. In prison was the first place I tried it. When I got out of prison, I had a habit. And the next thing I know, I started doing armed robberies. Robbing banks, and you know, whatever. I was sticking up everybody. I was robbing everything not nailed down. Then I had the incident that happened, and that’s it. I hear people say that they loved heroin. I couldn’t stand it. I hated heroin because of what it did to me. Once I got on it – you’re not doing it for the high anymore. You’re doing it because you need it.
KS: To feel normal?
MN: To feel normal. I got to that point. I don’t even think I’ve ever felt high again, since I was 22 when I first used it. Every time I used it was just to stay normal. I was using it in prison. I hate to say it but I had a decent prison life. I had people coming to see me, people bringing me drugs, and life was good in prison. Even though I was where I was, I had a girl coming to see me every couple of months. I got laid.
KS: Oh? That’s not bad.
MN: So what else did I need? I didn’t need nothing. I had everything. When I left, I felt bad. I was leaving, the guys were like “Yo Mike, take it easy out there!”
What happened was, was when I got out, I stayed clean for maybe a month. And I started getting high again. I was on parole, and my parole officer said “Mike you can’t do that.” He said, “But listen here I got something really good for you.” He said, “Get into this program and we can’t say you got dirty urine.” So they sent me into the methadone program. When I was that age, I didn’t research nothing or whatever. So I said, fine, I’ll go into the methadone program. So I went on the methadone program, supposedly for six months to a year. Before I knew it, 13 years passed and I was like walking Death.
I had heard a little bit about kratom but I was like, “No, it ain’t for me” at the time. They tried to put me on Suboxone at the time. What happened was, I get in a bad ass brawl with the cops. They beat me within inches of my life. And I get locked up. They locked me up for assaulting them. So this is after that happened, the jail time. Now I’m on Rikers Island, and I have no methadone. I kick cold turkey. I kicked methadone – I was on 80 milligrams a day – cold turkey. I don’t know if you know anyone who kicked methadone cold turkey but… pssh… that is a really hard thing to do. And I kicked it in prison. I kicked it.
So when I got out, I wasn’t on anything. Oh, found out I had Hep C when I got out. I had had it – I got it when I went into the army. Inoculations – that’s how I got Hep C. I had to take the treatment. And I got it knocked out of me. Thank God they got it out of me. But I stayed clean six years after that happened. After I took the Hep C medicine that did something to my brain. I was like “Cocaine is not the drug of my choice, so I could do a little coke every now and then.” Yeah, okay, sure! You know how that works. Next thing I know I’m doing cocaine and heroin. I’m speed-balling. That’s what happened. That was after six years of being clean. I was off to the races. After that I just picked up where I left off. Even more so.
So basically I’d been using since the age of 15. The most I was clean was six years. Bring it up all the way until now. Since the kratom, I don’t have the slightest thought.. Believe me, I know people that have this and that. I’ve had people text me, “Mike yo I got some…” I’m like, yeah I’m good. Don’t worry about it. Lose my number, or I’ll block them. When somebody tries to push that shit towards me I’m like, it ain’t happening.
“I was like, wow! I can’t believe it’s actually working. I wasn’t looking for a high, I was just looking not to be sick. I didn’t feel high but I got that warm fuzzy feeling… a body feeling, not a nodding out, scratching… it was just a feeling of well-being.”
KS: Were you completely clean when you started using kratom?
MN: Yeah, I was. Actually I just kicked, after the car accident. Whatever I did, I just laid up, and I got everything out of my system for about five to seven days. And it was like boom with the kratom. I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe I’m actually functioning. You know what I mean?
KS: Yeah. I think a lot of people say they detox first and then start the kratom for withdrawals.
MN: Exactly, exactly. You know what it is though? People have to try it before they believe it. I got it from my friend John, and I said alright let me try it. And it worked for me. I was like, Wow I can’t believe it’s actually working. I wasn’t looking for a high, I was just looking not to be sick. I didn’t feel high but I got that warm fuzzy feeling you get from the heroin. I got that feeling, like it was a body feeling not a nodding out, scratching… it was just a feeling of well-being. It’s amazing, really it is. Anybody ever asks me about it, I say this is the best thing that’s happened since sliced bread. I wish I could get my wife to take it because she still takes the Xanax at night that’s prescribed. She don’t abuse it. She’s not a drug addict, never was. But it would feel so good, I know. But it ain’t happening, so.. I would like to but she’s one of those, “Take your kratom and shut up.” What are you gonna do? You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink it, you know? I’ve gotten a whole lot of people turned on to it that were having a hard time and everything. And they couldn’t thank me enough.They were like, “Mike I can’t believe it”. As soon as they took it they would call me up, “Yo! Where can I get some?” I told them I’ll give you the link to my vendor and you’ll get it. You know what it is? It makes me feel good to know I can help somebody out, that I can give somebody the same push. It’s a miracle plant for me. I tell everybody. Anybody that asks, I give them the whole miracle spiel.
KS: Definitely. Of course, because it works they’re trying to outlaw it in some places.
MN: You know what it is? The reason they’re trying to outlaw it is, it’s better than anything that big pharma has in store. As far as I can see, health wise, it helps a lot. Blood pressure – my blood pressure was through the roof. Since I’m taking kratom, it’s normal. I wouldn’t take the blood pressure medication because I don’t like to feel lethargic and shitty and whatnot. And since the kratom, my blood pressure is as normal as can be. Believe me, it’s got a whole lot of medical benefits besides curing anxiety, pain, giving you a little energy.
KS: That’s why I think it should be out in the open so they can study all the stuff that it does. But it should still be available and cheap.
MN: You know what I noticed? They don’t look at the science behind it. They’re always trying to bash it real quick. So and so overdosed from a large amount of kratom. And check this out? They’re shooting kratom. They’re shooting and snorting it! Ok sure, I do that all the time.
KS: It’s impossible.
MN: That’s impossible. If you did that you wouldn’t be able to breath out of your nose and your veins would collapse. They actually have people believing that though. They put it out in the news article people go, “Oh yeah these junkies are gonna shoot the kratom!” You know? Like we’re gonna smoke it, we’re gonna put it in a crack pipe.
KS: Oh my god, that would be awful.
MN: They poison people’s minds about it. Let me tell you, I would take it over anything that big pharma has to offer. I don’t care what it is, Oxys or whatever. Whatever they got, I’m not buying it. I’m not taking it. I’m in that category where, kratom is it. If I need medicine, that’s my medicine. Bottom line.
KS: Thanks a lot for doing this, this was great.
MN: If I could help anyone else out, good. If they ask me, it’s the best thing. Somebody has to actually experience it to know. I passed it by a couple times until I finally said, enough is enough, I can’t do that other shit no more. Something’s gotta help me. Kratom is a miracle in my life, put it that way.