Dangers of ‘gas station heroin’ mitigated as Mississippi bans tianeptine

Tianeptine expected to disappear from retail shelves
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 7:10 PM CDT
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - Zaza, Coaxil, Tianna:

Those are a few of the brand names of tianeptine, also known as “gas station heroin.”

This week, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed legislation reclassifying the substance as a schedule three drug, effectively banning its sale and distribution.

John Herrington, clinical director of Pine Grove Behavioral Health’s “Next Step” program, said people have overdosed and even died from the drug. He said tianeptine is being marketed as a dietary supplement that helps you relax but it acts similar to an opiate.

“I’ve actually had some people in treatment where it’s become a drug of choice now,” said Herrington.

Herrington said people may consider the product to be a safe alternative to harder drugs, but it has actually caused some to seek treatment.

“I actually had a guy in treatment tell me in the past he was using opiates--heroin being one of his drugs--got clean off that then had some struggles, went back but then was using this thinking that this was a safer thing,” Herrington said. “But he actually said it was just as hard or harder on his body and even harder to come off of.”

Dr. Joseph Nosser, William Carey University assistant professor of pharmacy practice, said if patients don’t continue taking tianeptine, they can present with opioid-like withdrawal symptoms.

“Patients, if they were to stop taking this abruptly, they could show up to the doctor, the ER ,with these symptoms, ” said Nosser.

Nosser, who recently published a study on tianeptine, said he worked with the Mississippi Department of Health and legislators who sponsored the bill to get tianeptine off the streets.

“We’ve seen that this substance could alter patients’ lives and really cause some damage to patients physically, mentally, just affecting their quality of life going forward,” Nosser said. “What I would say to patients going forward, is that if you do have some concern with substance abuse, that your local health care providers are here to help you.”

For individuals or family members experiencing substance use disorders, SAMHSA’s national helpline—1-800-662-4889—is available 24 hours/seven days a week, 365 days a week.

It’s free, confidential and provides referral services to local treatment providers.

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