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Lawmakers urge FDA to take action on 'gas station heroin'

Tianeptine can easily be purchased online, but the FDA has warned that just because the drug can be purchased legally does not make it safe.
Lawmakers urge FDA to take action on 'gas station heroin'
Posted at 7:36 AM, Jan 22, 2024

A bipartisan group of members of Congress signed a letter urging the Food and Drug Administration to more tightly regulate tianeptine, which lawmakers say is commonly referred to as "gas station heroin." 

The lawmakers claim that tianeptine has "opioid-like qualities" and is extremely addictive, citing University of Alabama-Birmingham research. 

Reps. Jeff Jackson, D-North Carolina; Rich McCormick, R-Georgia; John Rose, R-Tennessee; Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado; and Wiley Nickel, D-North Carolina, signed the letter. 

They asked the FDA to provide information on research used to determine the pharmacological properties of tianeptine, what effects the drug has on human health, and whether the FDA has taken any steps to schedule tianeptine under the Controlled Substances Act. 

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The FDA has said that tianeptine is not approved for any medical use. 

"People seeking to treat their ailments sometimes mistake a product as being safe because it’s easily available, whether online or even at gas stations," the FDA said. "But availability is no indication of effectiveness or safety. This is especially true of tianeptine, an unapproved drug associated with serious health risks and even death."

The U.S. Department of Justice said tianeptine has been used in counterfeit pills mimicking hydrocodone and oxycodone or bags of heroin. The DOJ said the drug has caused withdrawal symptoms severe enough to cause hospitalization. 

Makers of the drug, which is sold in tablet or powder form, says it helps people with stress relief, energy and relaxation. The FDA says these claims are "unproven." 

In November 2023, the FDA issued an alert warning consumers not to consume Neptune Fix’s tianeptine products after consumers reported instances of seizures and loss of consciousness leading to hospitalization.

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