Widely known as “Zaza” and “gas station heroin,” tianeptine is an atypical tricyclic antidepressant drug that is sold as a dietary supplement in many U.S. states. The drug is referred to as “gas station heroin” because it produces opioid-like side effects and is available at many gas stations and smoke shops.

Although this drug is cheap, easy to obtain, and mind-altering, it can also be extremely dangerous and addictive. This article explores what Zaza is and why it is so dangerous. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse of any kind, please reach out to our team at First Step Behavioral Health today.

What is Tianeptine?

Tianeptine, the active ingredient in Zaza, is a substance that belongs to a class of drugs known as atypical tricyclic antidepressants. However, unlike the average antidepressant, tianeptine has opioid agonist properties, meaning it works on opioid receptors in the brain. By doing so, it helps increase endorphins like serotonin and reduce depression symptoms. But like other opioid agonists, tianeptine can also produce euphoria, pain relief, and pleasure sensations that can be addictive when abused.

Tianeptine is approved for medicinal use in several European and Asian countries. It is used to treat a range of conditions including depression, anxiety, pain, irritable bowel syndrome, major depressive disorder, and even opioid use disorder.

While it is widely available via prescription in Europe, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved tianeptine due to its severe health risks including addiction, overdose, and death. The FDA has warned that adverse events often occur when people take the drug in higher doses than the doses used for prescriptions in other countries.

Side Effects

Side effects of tianeptine can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Headache
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Tremor
  • Increased heart rate
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Weight changes
  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating

Is Gas Station Heroin Legal?

Even though the FDA has not approved tianeptine for medicinal use in the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has not classified it as a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This means it is not illegal on a federal level. With that being said, certain states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Ohio, have banned the drug.

In other states, tianeptine is legal, and it is often sold in convenience stores, smoke shops, or gas stations. As a result, it is commonly referred to as “gas station heroin.” It comes in several forms, including tablets, capsules, and powders. It is also sold online.

Tianeptine abuse has become a serious problem across the U.S. In the last five years, poison control centers across the county have reported a dramatic uptick in calls related to tianeptine use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms reported by callers mimic those of opioid overdose and withdrawal.

Other Street Names for Tianeptine

Tianeptine is regularly sold under the brand name “Zaza” or “Zaza red,” but it can also be sold under various names, claiming to be a dietary supplement. Other common names for tianeptine include:

  • Neptune’s fix
  • Tia
  • Tianna
  • Gas station dope
  • Gas station heroin
  • TD rede
  • Pegasus

Brand names for the medication in other countries include Coaxil and Stablon.

The Dangers of Zaza

When taken as prescribed, tianeptine may be able to treat many conditions. But when it is abused or obtained illegally, it can be habit-forming and dangerous. People who misuse Zaza may do so for its euphoric, opioid-like side effects, including relaxation, sedation, and respiratory depression.

Public health officials have warned that the drug has been associated with several negative side effects, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Worsening of depression or anxiety symptoms
  • Poor decision making
  • Unsafe or risky behaviors while under the influence
  • Respiratory depression
  • Drug overdose (symptoms of overdose may include respiratory depression, coma, unresponsiveness, shallow and labored breathing, and even death)
  • Physical dependence
  • Addiction

In some states, gas station heroin is classified as a controlled substance due to its potential for abuse. Possessing or distributing gas station heroin illegally can lead to legal or social consequences.

Can You Get Addicted to Tianeptine?

In moderate to high doses, tianeptine can produce effects similar to opioids. It is possible to get physically and mentally addicted to these effects. Individuals who currently suffer from or have recovered from opioid use disorder are at a higher risk of addiction to gas station heroin.

Signs of Zaza addiction include:

  • Persistent cravings for tianeptine
  • Increasing tolerance–needing higher doses to achieve the desired effects
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from tianeptine
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home due to tianeptine use
  • Continuing to use tianeptine despite negative consequences
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using tianeptine
  • Using tianeptine in dangerous situations, such as while driving or operating machinery
  • Failed attempts to cut down or control tianeptine use
  • Social withdrawal or isolation due to tianeptine use
  • Prioritizing tianeptine use over other activities or relationships
  • Changes in mood or behavior, such as irritability, anxiety, or depression
  • Physical symptoms such as constipation, nausea, or weight loss

Addiction to tianeptine can have serious consequences for physical health, mental well-being, and social functioning. It can lead to problems such as financial difficulties, relationship strain, legal issues, and deterioration in overall quality of life. Treatment, which includes detox, behavioral therapy, support groups, and relapse prevention, can help individuals attain long-term recovery.

Tianeptine Withdrawal & Detox

Abruptly stopping the use of tianeptine can result in withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms may be more severe in people who have been addicted for a long time, using heavily, or with a previous history of opioid withdrawal. Withdrawal usually begins 1-3 days after the last dose and lasts up to a week. Symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cravings

The best way to detox is under the supervision of medical professionals. Medical detox centers like First Step Behavioral Health can help individuals detox safely and comfortably with the support of medications, peers, and therapeutic interventions. After detox, it’s important to participate in a treatment program to gain the tools necessary to stay sober.

Find Help for Zaza Abuse and Addiction Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse of any kind, please reach out to our team at First Step Behavioral Health today. We offer comprehensive treatment programs tailored to individual needs, including detox, therapy, support groups, and relapse prevention strategies. Our compassionate and experienced staff are here to provide support and guidance on the journey to recovery from Zaza addiction. Don’t wait any longer to seek help–call now to get started.

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