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In other parts of the world, Tianeptine is used as an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication; however, in the US, it is not FDA-approved for any medical use due to the growing amount of evidence that the substance poses dangerous health risks and overdose events.
Despite this, Tianeptine products can still be found online and, more shockingly, at local gas stations and smoke shops. Companies are illegally selling products containing Tianeptine in powder and pill form, claiming it can be used as a dietary supplement and help treat conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. It can also be found in liquid form at local convenience stores, commonly under the brand name “Neptune’s Fix Elixir.”
The FDA started receiving reports of incidences linked to Tianeptine in 2015, and the number has continued to increase every year, with nearly 400 human exposures reported in 2023.
Adverse side effects of Tianeptine include:
Adding to the substances’ inherent danger is that fact that, due to its illicit manufacturing, there is no way to guarantee consistent amount and dosing. This increases the risk of life-threatening side effects, like overdose. At least two deaths having been connected to the drug and reported to the FDA, but more unreported fatalities are suspected.
Tianeptine is sought and used for the mood-altering effects and euphoric high that it can create for some users. Its effect on the brain is similar to that of Opioids, making it a particularly dangerous substance for those addicted to Opioids or in recovery from an Opioid use disorder.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the withdrawal symptoms connected to Tianeptine closely mimic those of Opioid withdrawal. The US Drug Enforcement Agency reported that severe withdrawal symptoms have resulted in multiple hospitalizations following the use of Tianeptine.
Dr. Caleb Alexander, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, highlights this point, telling CNN Health that the ease of access to Tianeptine products puts those who are struggling with an Opioid addiction at particularly high risk.
“We remain in the midst of an opioid epidemic in this country… It’s a product that clearly has a non-trivial potential for abuse, and the fact that it’s available at your nearest gas station, I think, should give pause.”
Alexander further warns people to stop using Tianeptine until the FDA and other safety organizations can “ensure that the companies produce evidence demonstrating the safety of this product.” Until then, no Tianeptine use should be considered safe.
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In their report, the FDA noted that Neptune Resources, LLC, the company that makes and sells Neptune’s Fix Elixir, voluntarily recalled all its products containing Tianeptine and contacted vendors, urging them to remove the products from their shelves.
Sadly, there is not much that can be done about illicit manufacturers until a stricter crackdown is enforced. Until then, consumers should avoid all use of Tianeptine to keep themselves and their families safe from this dangerous substance.
If you have recently consumed Tianeptine and are experiencing adverse effects, call emergency services immediately.
If you are struggling with an Opioid use disorder and have considered using Tianeptine, contact a treatment provider today and get started on the road to recovery.
Jessica Sherer earned her B.A. in English from Ashford University and has over eight years of copyediting experience in healthcare education. Dedicated to providing clear and useful information, she hopes her work will help to support those affected by addiction.