Overdoses from unregulated “gas station heroin” are on the rise across the U.S.
By Cassie B. // Feb 27, 2024

Fentanyl might grab all the headlines when it comes to drug overdoses in the U.S., but an over-the-counter substance that has been dubbed “gas station heroin” is causing a concerning jump in overdoses that is prompting calls by the FDA for a crackdown.

The drug in question is tianeptine, sold under brand names such as Coaxil and Stabon. It was developed to treat anxiety and depression, but the opioid-like high it causes and its easy accessibility are feeding an addiction epidemic across the nation.

It is sold over the counter in the U.S. as a supplement and can be found at convenience stores, vape shops and gas stations, where it is often sold in capsules or as part of energy drinks. This has led to a high amount of misuse and numerous overdoses, and it is particularly problematic because teens can buy these substances legally and experiment with them.

The problem is compounded by deceptive marketing practices that boast of its ability to improve mood, cognition, energy and sexual performance. They also claim that these products can alleviate the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

The FDA issued a warning about Neptune’s Fix drinks that contain the substance due to a rise in seizures, loss of consciousness and hospitalization associated with its consumption. Moreover, these drinks contain ingredients not listed on the label, according to researchers, including synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists.

The agency reported that they had received reports of severe adverse events following the use of these products, adding: “FDA considers tianeptine to be a substance that does not meet the statutory definition of a dietary ingredient and is an unsafe food additive. The FDA is aware of several serious adverse event reports associated with tianeptine.”

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Last month, the company behind Neptune’s Fix products, Neptune Resources, LLC, issued a voluntary recall of its products, but there are still others on the market that contain dangerous tianeptine, such as Zaza, Pegasus Red, Red Dawn and Purple Magic.

The North Carolina Association of Pharmacists’ Director, Penny Shelton, explained why the chemical is so harmful, stating: “It does far more than create euphoria or a high. It actually changes neuronal pathways in the brain. This is particularly problematic for teens and young adults.”

The FDA has yet to ban tianeptine, but the agency does advise people to avoid it, and they have urged gas stations and convenience stores to stop selling the products. The rise in abuse of the drug has led several states to restrict or prohibit sales, such as Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. North Carolina lawmakers are currently working on anti-tianeptine legislature, and other states are expected to follow suit. Some medical professionals have warned that the fact that these drugs can be purchased over the counter leads people to assume they are safe.

Tianeptine is highly addictive

One of the biggest problems with tianeptine is its addictive nature. In fact, it is its opioid-like potential for abuse that draws its comparisons to heroin. As users build tolerance to it, they need to take more to get the desired effects, which raises the risk of overdose and withdrawal. It can also cause health problems like rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Overdoses can cause respiratory depression, coma, seizures and death, and it is particularly dangerous when taken with other opioids or alcohol.

Although it is not approved as a drug in the U.S., some countries have approved tianeptine for the treatment of depression and anxiety. However, many of them restrict how it is dispensed or prescribed, and the drug label warns of the potential for addiction.

Sources for this article include:

TheEpochTimes.com

FDA.gov

NYPost.com



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