Beshear outlaws tianeptine known as ‘gas station heroin’

Published 1:00 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

By McKenna Horsley

Kentucky Lantern

Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday issued an emergency regulation classifying tianeptine, known as “gas station heroin,” as a Schedule 1 controlled drug.

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In some countries, the drug is prescribed in low doses to treat depression and anxiety. The drug is not approved in the United States and in higher doses produces opioid-like effects and can lead to addiction and even death, says the  Food and Drug administration.

The FDA also says some countries where the drug is legal have restricted how it is prescribed or dispensed, or revised the drug label to warn of possible addiction.

In the U.S., tianeptine is marketed in powder and pill form through online sales and in convenience stores and gas stations. It is known as ZaZa, Tianna, TD Red and Pegasus according to a new release from the governor’s office.

“Today, Kentucky became a safer place,” said Beshear. “Until now, someone looking for a heroin-like high could walk into certain places or buy this harmful product online. We’re committed to protecting Kentuckians from this kind of harm, and if someone is struggling with abuse, we’re here to help.”

Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee,  Michigan, Georgia and Mississippi have banned the drug. 

The FDA advises consumers to avoid all drugs containing tianeptine and says: “In the U.S., reports of bad reactions and unwanted effects involving tianeptine are increasing. Poison control center cases involving tianeptine exposure have increased nationwide, from 11 total cases between 2000 and 2013 to 151 cases in 2020 alone.

“Cases described in medical journals, in calls to U.S. poison control centers, and in reports to the FDA suggest that tianeptine has a potential for abuse. People with a history of opioid use disorder or dependence may be at particular risk of abusing tianeptine.

“Some people have turned to tianeptine as an opioid alternative, or to self-treat anxiety or depression. Medical journals and reports to the FDA suggest that adverse events may occur when tianeptine is taken at doses higher than the doses prescribed in the countries where the drug has been approved. Some people may have difficulty stopping their use of tianeptine and may experience withdrawal symptoms. The clinical effects of tianeptine abuse and withdrawal can mimic opioid toxicity and withdrawal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”