Have you heard of Tianeptine? Perhaps you've heard of Za Za, Pegasus or Tianaa, the three most common brands of the drug sold in many gas stations and smoke shops around the country. The first time I heard about Tianeptine was in 2016 when the DEA announced it would be adding Kratom to its list of Schedule One Drugs, effectively making it illegal. Thanks to a valiant fight by kratom users worldwide and with the help from the American Kratom Association that effort was defeated and our freedom to continue using kratom was preserved. Tianeptine was introduced as a "Kratom Substitute" and even came in Red, Green and White varieties. Not much was known about Tianeptine at that time, but since then the manufacturers of the drug have managed to get it onto the shelves of convenience stores, smoke shops and gas stations nationwide.
At the time we owned Cirrus Smoke Shop and were offered to sell Tianeptine under the name Tianaa. As we have always done with every product we sell, we did a deep dive into the alleged supplement to see if it was something our customers would benefit from. It didn't take long to realize that it was not an herbal supplement as described and in fact was not natural at all. We decided that it was not something we wanted anything to do with.
The drug Tianeptine is used as an antidepressant in over 60 countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. It’s not approved for medical use in the U.S., but unregulated versions, their true contents a mystery, are sold in convenience stores, gas stations, smoke shops, and online as “natural” supplements that boost mood and increase brain function. Since this drug is unregulated there is no way of knowing if the formulation you are getting is even close to the original design. Much like "Spice" or "Special K" the formula is hidden and can change depending on the manufacturers access to ingredients.
The pills, have earned the nickname “gas station heroin” because they hit opioid receptors
in the brain, causing extreme addiction for some people. The packaging and advertising usually don’t indicate that’s a possibility. Some offer a disclaimer that the vendors are not responsible for any misuse of the product and that only people 18 and older can buy it; some encourage repeated use. One of the biggest problems is that Za Za, Pegasus or Tianaa are being misrepresented by stores as a "Natural Supplement" and "Just like Kratom", but neither of those claims are true.
Packaging suggests “Use it in the morning to get yourself going and use it in the afternoon to help finish your day. There is something special about ZAZA (Red, Silver, White) Capsules,” reads one online ad. “We have found that repeated use of the ingredients somehow continues to work, improving, and enhancing our daily experiences.”
But the daily experience for many tianeptine users is indistinguishable from traditional opioid addiction, with withdrawal symptoms including nausea, chills, restless legs, agitation, insomnia, diarrhea, and an overwhelming sense of doom. Some users have said they became suicidal while self-detoxing, and others have said that their addiction led them back to using illicit fentanyl. Those with previous opioid addictions have said the withdrawal that sets in is worse than being dopesick from heroin or fentanyl.
Tianeptine is a tricyclic antidepressant that boosts the production of serotonin and dopamine, which impact happiness, and norepinephrine, which impacts the body’s fight or flight response. It also hits opioid receptors in the brain, which can produce euphoria and pain relief. In theory, methadone could ease the desire for the drug by acting on those same receptors. Because many tianeptine products feature proprietary blends, no one knows just how to counter their effects, because no one but the manufacturers even knows for sure what’s in them. There’s no standard detox protocol for tianeptine. But more rehabilitation facilities in places like Florida and Tennessee are offering services for people addicted to the Tianeptine.
We felt it was important to help raise awareness of this drug, especially because it is being so frequently compared to kratom as a selling point that would lead one to believe it is safe. Kapua Kava Bar would obviously never sell or market these products in any form and we would highly recommend that our customers steer clear of them for their own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of their families. At the very least, Do your research and know exactly what you are putting into your body.