Man Sues Maker of Wellness Drink for Allegedly Causing Him to Relapse After 7 Years of Sobriety Botanic Tonics advertises itself as an "alcohol alternative." However, a man in California says he quickly became addicted to the beverage and is now suing for misleading advertising.
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Botanic Tonics, a Santa Monica-based beverage company, is facing a class-action lawsuit after a man claimed that one of its drinks caused him to relapse after seven years of sobriety. The lawsuit alleges the tonic contains a powerful ingredient that has similar effects on the brain to opioids.
Romulo Torres, a recovering alcoholic, began receiving targeted ads for Botanic Tonics' Feel Free Wellness Tonic in 2020. It was advertised as a beverage featuring kava and "other ancient plants" to aid productivity, focus and relaxation.
However, the drink upended Torres' life and sobriety after he purchased Feel Free at a 7-Eleven in December 2021. Within three months, Torres developed a "strong addiction" to the product, drinking 10 Feel Free Tonics a day and spending $3,000 a month on the drink, the lawsuit states. After attempting to quit the beverage, Torres experienced severe withdrawal symptoms and began drinking alcohol again in 2022 to ease the worsening effects of Feel Free's withdrawal.
Over the course of his Feel Free consumption, Torres was also admitted to the emergency room after experiencing symptoms associated with opioid use, including vomiting, lapses in consciousness, psychosis and delirium.
"His symptoms were attributed to the ingredients in Feel Free," the lawsuit claims.
Although Botanic Tonics markets Feel Free as a kava-based beverage, the lawsuit alleges that the main ingredient is actually kratom, a plant that can have similar effects on brain receptors to opioids and "appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence," according to a 2022 FDA warning.
"There are no FDA-approved uses for kratom, and the agency has received concerning reports about the safety of kratom," the warning states.
The lawsuit claims that Botanic Tonics manipulated its formula of Feel Free to enhance the effects of kratom and ignite a long-lasting and magnified "high."
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Botanic Tonics' attorney Brett Schuman refuted the claims and said that the brand intends to defend its product in court.
"Botanic Tonics products are safe and manufactured, marketed and distributed to the highest industry standards," Schuman told the outlet.