Tianeptine, an Antidepressant with Opioid Agonist Effects: Pharmacology and Abuse Potential, a Narrative Review

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Pain and Therapy


Tianeptine is an antidepressant drug approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder in countries other than the US. It is classified as an atypical tricyclic antidepressant and has shown potential benefits in addressing anxiety and irritable bowel disease. However, it is important to note that tianeptine is not approved for any use by the United States Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Despite its lack of approval by the FDA, tianeptine has been distributed online and at small retail locations. The term “gas station drugs” refers to a wide range of substances typically available for purchase from gas stations, corner stores, bodegas, mini marts, smoke shops, and the Internet. These substances may be produced commercially by drug manufacturers or in clandestine laboratories to mimic the effects of more well-known illicit/controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine, opioids, etc. Tianeptine has made its way to convenience stores and gas station shelves, branded as “Zaza” and “Tianna Red.” It can also be obtained online from independent vendors without a prescription. Misuse of tianeptine can lead to euphoric, opioid-like highs with the potential for chronic users to develop dependence and tolerance. Overdose and use in suicide attempts have also been documented. This manuscript is a narrative review, highlighting the dangers of tianeptine and other gas station drugs and underscoring the urgent need to regulate these substances.

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