Ohio Just Banned 'Gas Station Heroin'

The chemical, which was banned on December 22, is still legal in 43 states

click to enlarge Tianaa, a "dietary supplement" containing tianeptine shown here, is now illegal to sell in the state of Ohio. - Ohio Board of Pharmacy
Ohio Board of Pharmacy
Tianaa, a "dietary supplement" containing tianeptine shown here, is now illegal to sell in the state of Ohio.

Following studies of adverse effects, from restless arm syndrome to sudden death, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy has banned any product containing the chemical tianeptine, also known as "Tia" or "Gas Station Heroin," due to its opioid-like effects.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, in an emergency order, permitted the board to classify the chemical as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

Packaged in brands like ZaZa and Tianaa and TD Red, tianeptine could be found in head shops and behind gas station counters since around 2000. But it was in 2015, according to the Board's recent report, that the National Poison Data System reported a "significant increase" in exposure calls, most likely a byproduct of the evolving national opioid epidemic.

On December 22, ten months after the FDA's latest warning on tianeptine products, the Board made the substance illegal in Ohio, following six other states that had previously done so. The Board found that, noting "abuse potential" across some 83 cases, tianeptine was prone to cause "agitation, drowsiness, confusion, sweating, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, slowed or stopped breathing, coma and death."

"After a review of all available data," the report continued, "the Ohio Board of Pharmacy found that tianeptine has no accepted medical use in treatment in this state, and poses an imminent hazard to the public health, safety or welfare."

The report cited extensive work done by Vice News on the topic.

Online, where accounts of addiction are numerous, retailers based in France or China tout tianeptine as a "mood booster" or a "nootropic"—a memory enhancer— with bottles typically going for $50 to $70. Etsy sellers chalk up tianeptine, known as Coaxil or Stabalon in prescription form, as a focus-aiding productivity enhancer.

"Its beneficial effects compound over extended use," one retailer claims, "resulting in a long-term effect which reduces feelings of stress, sadness and anxiety."

On Reddit, more than 3,600 respectfully disagree.

"I've had the worst year and a half," Tiny_Dealer67 wrote on r/QuttingTianeptine, where construction workers, teachers and former heroin addicts post cries for help in midst of panic and sleepless nights. "I've been on it since October 2021. I bought my last bottle New Year's Eve. I'm trying to be better this year. I want to give myself a chance at being happy."

"Feel like dying," user Malificient_Health612 wrote. "These withdrawals really suck. I wanna get help. I wanna check myself into an institution. I'm losing my mind."

Tianeptine getting the boot follows Ohio's increased focus on scrutinizing herbs and dietary supplements. As the state lines up to decide, once again, on marijuana's legality, other substances new to the area are leading city officials to adopt new rules.

In November, North Olmsted issued a moratorium on businesses that sell kratom, kava and Delta products, for instance, shortly after Ohio's first kava bar, Sacred Waters, opened its doors.

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Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea is a staff writer at Scene. For the past seven years, he's covered Cleveland as a freelance journalist, and has contributed to TIME, NPR, the Pacific Standard and the Cleveland Magazine. He's the winner of two Press Club awards.
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