An Illegal Drug Called Tianeptine Is Being Linked to Overdoses & Deaths

An antidepressant drug that has been around since the 1960s and is approved for use in Europe, Asia, and Latin America is being investigated as a possible public health risk in the United States, where it hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Tianeptine, which is marketed as Stablon or Coaxil, has effects that are similar to those of opioids and is extremely addictive. Its potential for abuse and severe withdrawal symptoms make it a drug that is difficult to recover from, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Using the drug can produce feelings of euphoria and reduce pain. Unfortunately, some U.S. companies are still seeking FDA approval so they can prescribe the drug for depression, and others are claiming that the FDA hasn’t done enough to regulate the dietary supplement industry.

Despite the fact that the FDA has issued warnings against the use of tianeptine, poison control centers have reported a sharp increase in the number of tianeptine-related calls – there have been at least 883 since 2015, which is up from 27 a decade earlier, and at least four people have died after overdosing on the drug so far. Dietary supplements like tianeptine generally don’t need to be approved by the FDA to be sold, unlike prescription drugs.

How Did Tianeptine Become Popular?

Despite the fact that tianeptine has been around for years, some associate the drug’s recent popularity with 2015 imports by various companies after a 2014 study found that it had similar effects to opioids. According to Consumer Reports, an executive administrator of a variety of drug recovery centers in Alabama said that patients who have been treated for opioid addiction have later become addicted to tianeptine after taking it thinking it was safe to use.

One Michigan woman several years into recovery from opioid abuse became addicted to tianeptine after her friends said it was safe to use, and reported being surprised at how easy it was to obtain the drug – her friends would order it online.

Advocates are now pushing for the creation of a supplement registry that will prevent products with dangerous or illegal ingredients from going to market, but the FDA says it lacks the authority to create such a registry. Others say tianeptine can be better regulated if it’s approved as a prescription drug first, so the FDA can restrict its access. Until further action is taken, tianeptine remains easy for buyers to find and purchase online.

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