PHOENIX (Dec.15,2022) – Medical toxicologists at the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center are warning people about a new commercial drug that is triggering opioid-like withdrawals in consumers.
Tianeptine, classified as an antidepressant, is being sold in gas stations around the country. Many refer to it as “gas-station heroin” and can be purchased online under various names including Nootropic, ZaZa Red, TD Red, or Tianaa.
This drug and its branded products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for medical use in the United States and have been banned in multiple states, such as Michigan, Alabama, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Georgia.
These products pose a risk because they can stimulate opioid receptors in the brain causing an increase in dependency and an increase in withdrawal symptoms if a person stops using it, much like an opioid. A recent study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse concluded that 83% of tianeptine users reported addiction, 81% of users said tianeptine was the same as an opioid, and 70% had withdrawals.
Since 2020, the FDA and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have noted an increase in calls to Poison Control Centers across the United States regarding this drug, which has helped in attempting to determine consumption rates across the country.
Dr. Bryan Kuhn, pharmacist and clinical toxicologist with the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center warns against the use of the products. He said, "Tianeptine is well known to be highly addictive and can lead to significant withdrawal-related symptoms upon the abrupt discontinuation of the supplement.”
Dr. Kuhn adds that self-administration of any unregulated drug is rarely safe and effective. “We have several more effective and safe medications, along with therapy, that exist for those seeking treatment for opioid dependance,” he said.
All Arizona residents, caregivers, and health care providers can call the Opioid Assistance and Referral (OAR) Line with any opioid-related questions or issues at 888-688-4222. This line is operated by the Poison and Drug Information Centers in Phoenix and Tucson and can assist callers with understanding and assessing the signs and symptoms of fentanyl or opioid toxicity and provide instruction on obtaining, storing, and using naloxone to reverse the toxic effects of these drugs.
The Banner Poison and Drug Information Center in Phoenix and the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in Tucson provide free and confidential poison and drug information to the public and health care professionals. The hotlines operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The two centers serve all of Arizona and are part of 55 centers across the nation that are accredited by America’s Poison Centers. Call (800) 222-1222 from any location to reach the nearest poison center.