Jeremy Haley worked security at Denver International Airport, studied to be an air traffic controller in Great Falls, Mont., and sold natural gas leases in Williston, N.D.
But he was anxious and adrift. Night after night the lanky, heavily tattooed young man took refuge in vanilla-flavored vodka and Coke.
“I was looking for something to fill the void,” he said.
After a drunk-driving arrest, he heard of an obscure tropical plant called kratom.
The leafy botanical, related to coffee, has been used throughout Southeast Asia for centuries to treat ailments including anxiety, chronic pain and drug addiction. It has become increasingly popular in the U.S. in the...