ATLANTA — The Food and Drug Administration has renewed its warning over what has been dubbed “gas station heroin,” saying it continues to receive severe adverse event reports despite putting out warnings for people to stop using it.
The substance called tianeptine, is being mixed into pill and liquid products. It’s not approved for any medical use, yet it often claims to improve brain function and treat anxiety and depression.
But drug treatment counselors say it’s highly addictive and poses serious health risks for users.
The FDA said products containing tianeptine can trigger seizures and loss of consciousness.
Channel 2 Action News first reported on tianeptine in Dec. 2022, when Channel 2′s Tom Regan was with deputies who seized bottles of Za Za, Tianna, and Tiara, and burned them.
The latest warnings from the FDA include a product called Neptune’s Fix.
“It’s an opiate agonist. So it acts on the same mechanism as opioids, heroin, and pain pills,” substance abuse counselor Kim Castro said. “This is something that is really serious.”
Castor told Regan that three of her clients in metro Atlanta using tianeptine wound up in the hospital.
“Sometimes they will get sick in the stomach first, and then they will have a seizure. But all three of them had to go to the hospital,” Castro said.
Castro said tianeptine is still being sold at some gas stations, vape shops, and online despite Georgia making it an illegal drug.
Once addicted, some users say they spent hundreds of dollars a week on the so-called supplement.
“This is like heroin times 1,000. And it’s very devastating. It’s life-destroying,” said Alyssa Wood, a former tianeptine user.
Since our last report in Dec. 2023, the FDA has sent a letter to convenience stores, gas stations and other organizations urging retailers to stop selling Neptune’s Fix and any other tianeptine-containing products.
The renewed warning also comes just days after lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick, sent a letter to the FDA urging them to take action over the illegal drug.
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“We urge the FDA to take immediate action to research and provide guidance on tianeptine use,” McCormick and three other U.S. House members wrote. “The urgent need for FDA action on tianeptine cannot be overstated.”
Dr. Gaylord Lopez with the Georgia Poison Center said the center has helped doctors treat patients who overdosed on tianeptine.
“We get called about them, unfortunately sometimes these things can end up tragically,” Lopez told Regan.
Tianeptine is banned in 9 states including Georgia, but Castro said outlawing tianeptine won’t prevent people from getting it.
She believes informing people on the risks of using it could spare them from an overdose, and a life-altering seizure.
“Some people think it’s going to help with my depression or my anxiety, and they don’t know what they’re getting into,” Castro said.
At the time of our last report, Channel 2 Action News reached out to the makers of Neptune’s Fix for a response to our investigation but never heard back.
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