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ZaZa Red: Beware of “Gas Station Herion”

What is tianeptine (ZaZa Red) used for?

Tianeptine or ZaZa Red is an atypical tricyclic antidepressant. In other words, it was originally developed to treat depression. However, it’s not like the commonly prescribed Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants like Prozac or Lexapro: tianeptine affects your body like heroin. It’s addictive, easy to abuse, and possible to overdose.

The alarming thing is that you can find it at your local gas station, which earned it the name “gas station heroin.”

It is not approved for medical use in the US by the FDA. However, it is legal in some parts of Europe, South America, and Asia. In those areas, it’s prescribed for depression, anxiety, asthma, and irritable bowel syndrome. Two common prescription names are Coaxil® and Stablon®.

It’s important to note that the typical prescription dosages in countries where it’s legal range between 25-50mg. Reported overdoses orbit around 7,500mg.

Why is tianeptine dangerous?

Tianeptine stimulates the brain’s mu-opioid receptors. This is the area that activates when drugs like heroin and fentanyl enter the body. The effects and withdrawal symptoms mimic heroin. In fact, it’s so similar that naloxone could treat an overdose. 

Therefore, if someone has a history of or predisposition to addiction and takes tianeptine, it is possible to become addicted.

The danger lies in the deceitful way it’s marketed. 

In the US, you can find unregulated tianeptine products at gas stations and online. They’re sold as “dietary supplements,” “energy enhancers,” and “mood stabilizers.” They have enticing benefits advertised on their colorful bottles. 

Some consumers bought the drug believing it to be a health product. They had no idea they were addicted until their state banned or restricted ZaZa Red and other products. With none left to purchase at the store, they went into withdrawals. Other users were looking for an alternative to SSRI antidepressants and became hooked. A blogger on the popular website Reddit said:

[I tried] various psych meds that did nothing or had intolerable side effects. Was researching treatment-resistant depression when I stumbled across Tianeptine. I believed I had nothing to lose at that point so I ordered Tia Sodium powder online…. Of course I built up a tolerance and increased my usage; I got hooked.

Street names 

These names are used in chat forums, online, or as listed ingredients:

  • ZaZa red
  • ZaZa white
  • Gas station heroin
  • Tianeptine Sodium or Sulfate
  • Neptune’s Fix (brand)
  • Pegasus (brand)
  • Tianna Red or Tianna White
  • Tianaa
  • Tia Red or Tia White
  • Purple Magic (brand)

What states have banned it?

As of May 2024, these are the states that have banned or severely restricted tianeptine products:

  • Florida 
  • Ohio 
  • Kentucky 
  • Alabama 
  • Michigan 
  • Tennessee 
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi
  • Indiana

Can tianeptine be safe?

It is not safe to use if you struggle with addiction. One popular online Reddit community, a subreddit called “Quitting Tianeptine,” has numerous first-hand accounts of users trying to get off the drug.

In the words of one Redditor, “Tianeptine is a dangerous drug. That’s why we all say ‘STOP DOING IT!’ when a new person comes to this [subreddit].”

Its half-life is relatively short; it gives users a euphoria that doesn’t last long, so it’s possible to build up a tolerance like you would heroin or alcohol. If someone wishes to experience a high, they must take more and more over time. Users posting on Reddit remarked how quickly “using tia” drains their bank account.

There is a large range between a prescribed dose to an overdose, yet we are seeing an increase in overdoses in recent years. Between 2000-2017, there were 218 calls to poison centers in the US regarding tianeptine exposure, with a significant increase in calls most recently. There is cause to believe that number is still rising.

Severe tianeptine exposures are often associated with other drugs like kratom. Because tianeptine products are unregulated, there is no telling what other substances may be incorporated into over-the-counter products. There are currently recalls on products like Neptune’s Fix.

What does tianeptine do to your body? 

Because it interacts with your body like an opioid, the effects and withdrawal symptoms are similar. 

Side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache

Overdose symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Withdrawal symptoms:

Redditors have described withdrawing from tianeptine as coming off both heroin and SSRIs. These symptoms may begin immediately coming off ZaZa Red/ tianeptine products:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sweating
  • Twitching/tremors
  • Heightened anxiety and depression
  • Muscle pain
  • Irritability
  • Seizures

How to keep yourself safe from tianeptine

No one should buy, sell or use tianeptine until we know more about it. Steer clear of this or of any “designer” drug products online or at gas stations or minimarts. Even though they promote “enhanced cognition,” “more energy,” and other promising benefits, the medical research does not endorse these products.

Always read the back of dietary supplements before you take them. If they contain any of the ingredients listed above or variations, do not buy or take the product. 

Talk to your healthcare provider first before buying over-the-counter products to replace drugs like Prozac or Lexapro. 

If you or a loved one has been taking ZaZa Red or tianeptine products like Neptune’s Fix or Pegasus, contact your healthcare provider for information on the next steps.

If the person you are concerned about is unconscious, having seizures, or not breathing, call 911 right away.

Have questions about a potential exposure? Or are you a healthcare provider with questions? Call the Missouri Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Beware ‘Gas Station Heroin’: The Hidden Dangers of Tianeptine – Missouri Poison Center

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ZaZa Red: Beware of “Gas Station Herion”

Taineptine or ZaZa Red is a dangerous and unregulated drug int he US. Despite being marketed as a “dietary supplement,” “energy enhancer,” or “mood stabilizer,” tianeptine functions similarly to opioids and can be as addictive and harmful as heroin.

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