Words are powerful. Certain phrases convince, intrigue, and mislead – sometimes all at once. Does “all-natural” printed on a label equal safe and effective? Or is it marketing misrepresentation? The labels on supplement bottles say much in a small space, but do they tell the full story?
Tianeptine “Zaza” is a medication that has been flying under the radar of the opioid epidemic for a few years. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not given its stamp of approval to tianeptine. This is due to its potential for addiction and abuse. How long does it take to get addicted to tianeptine? That is a primary concern for anyone intrigued by the drug.
This doesn’t imply it’s an automatic safe bet. The timeframe for addiction, including symptoms and signs of withdrawal, is essential. Is tianeptine a unique case of an addictive antidepressant?
What is Tianeptine?
Tianeptine is an atypical tricyclic antidepressant linked to opioid receptor activity. Tianeptine comes in an assortment of forms. These include salt, pills, or powder. These may resemble prescription drugs like hydrocodone or oxycodone. It has many street names, such as gas station heroin, Zaza, and Tianna.
It is also often marketed as an all-natural supplement, making it hard for consumers to understand its dangers when sold in stores. Tianeptine is a familiar face in random gas station supplements. It’s also available in bulk online. You won’t find it at the pharmacy next door, though. At least in the U.S., it falls in the “grey” area of drug classes. It’s not a controlled substance and is not approved by the FDA for medical use in the U.S.
Tianeptine is marketed as an atypical tricyclic antidepressant in other parts of the world. The prescription status spans Europe, Asia, and Latin America. This means it works differently from other antidepressants. It affects brain chemicals (serotonin) and mood when taken in low doses.
Its main use is treating symptoms of depression. Users claim it is a multitasking medication. It tackles pain, asthma, anxiety, dementia, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other ailments.
Recognized as an antidepressant, tianeptine isn’t so simple at second glance. Studies show if you take the drug at higher doses, it works more like an opioid. It releases dopamine into the brain, using the same receptors that opioids target.
People with opioid use disorders (OUD) are cautioned against using it because of its addictive potential. This has led to people using it instead of opiates like hydrocodone and self-medicating depression and anxiety. Opioid-like feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and dulling pain happen the more you take. This aligns with addiction, noticeable side effects, and withdrawal symptoms akin to opioids.
The FDA has even said that the drug could rival opioids. They concluded tianeptine does not meet the criteria for approval. They based the verdict on various documentation, like medical studies, phone calls, reports, poison control cases, and other sources.
On top of this, it is on the U.S. FDA Advisory List of ingredients that do not qualify for use in dietary supplements. The potential for abuse outweighs other outcomes. According to FDA records, organizations transported tianeptine into the U.S. as early as 2015. Poison control center cases nationwide regarding tianeptine exposure have risen. Between 2000 and 2013, only 11 cases occurred. 151 cases were reported in 2020.
Side Effects and Symptoms of Tianeptine Use
Compared to other tricyclic antidepressants, tianeptine has fewer heart, nervous system, sedative, and hunger effects. There is evidence suggesting a potential for liver damage at higher dosages.
Some of the most common side effects of use include:
- Dry mouth
Signs of Tianeptine Abuse
The side effects of tianeptine increase at higher doses and frequency.
Dependence: Misusing tianeptine can lead to rapid physical and mental addiction. Your body and mental health suffer.
Overdose: Taking too much tianeptine can turn deadly. Tianeptine at increased doses can be dangerous and cause a fatal overdose. A 2018 study reported 15 cases of tianeptine overdose. Half of these cases were in combination with another substance, and 3 resulted in death.
Overdose symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
Withdrawal: Suddenly stopping tianeptine after continued use can trigger withdrawal symptoms. The higher the level, the greater the danger. Serious withdrawal symptoms resulting in hospitalization following the use of tianeptine have been reported. An inpatient detox at a rehab center is sometimes needed to recover fully.
Evidence shows that continued use of tianeptine at high doses leads to withdrawal symptoms. These signs look a lot like other opioid drugs or potentially worse.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Flu-like illness
- Muscle aches
Cardiovascular effects: Tianeptine alters blood pressure levels as well as heart rate. This increases the risk of having a stroke, coma, or heart attack.
Other effects: Abusing tianeptine leads to liver and kidney damage. It also creates stomach and digestive issues like strictures and bleeding. Injecting tianeptine can cause major skin and vein damage. This sometimes requires surgery. Frequent needle use can lead to permanent damage to blood veins.
A Growing Public Health Risk
A study by the CDC analyzed calls from 2000 to 2017. Phone calls about tianeptine were reported to the National Poison Data System (NPDS). In the first 14 years (2000-2013), there were only 11 calls regarding tianeptine exposure.
From 2014 to 2017, there was a noticeable uptick with 207 calls:
- 5 in 2014
- 38 in 2015
- 83 in 2016
- 81 in 2017
Out of the 21 case reports involving withdrawal (72.4%) involved tianeptine alone. The most common negative effects during tianeptine withdrawal included:
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Excessive sweating
The alarming rise in poison control center calls points to a trend of tianeptine abuse. Tianeptine and opioids share characteristics that support tianeptine addiction following a similar path.
How Long Does it Take to Get Addicted to Tianeptine?
After looking closer at the similarities and differences between tianeptine and opioids, we have a clearer idea of the answer. There isn’t an exact answer. This is often the case when it comes to drug abuse.
The time it takes to get addicted to tianeptine can differ for everyone. Some people can develop dependence after a few weeks of using it regularly. Others may take longer to develop a substance use habit. Addiction is a reality with the continued misuse of tianeptine.
Tianeptine addiction affects your body and your mind. Quitting can be very challenging without professional help. An addiction treatment center under professional care ensures the best outcome for recovery. A dual recovery program to treat both behavioral health and substance abuse is what healthcare professionals recommend.
Taking tianeptine long-term or taking more than your doctor prescribed increases your tolerance. Your body adjusts to it. You’ll need higher doses to feel the same effects. Tianeptine abuse can make you more likely to become addicted. Attempting to stop or reduce tianeptine use can result in experiencing withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- Feeling depressed
- Having strong cravings for the drug
In the current opioid crisis, the surge in calls to poison control centers related to tianeptine is a public health concern. These figures show tianeptine abuse is increasing to fuel the current opioid epidemic.
Tempted to Try Tianeptine?
If you’re considering trying a controversial product not endorsed by the FDA, look closer. Especially if they mimic the effects of opioids in high doses. Do you want to take the risk when there are plenty of alternatives for the conditions that tianeptine treats? Assess the addictive abilities that aren’t in plain sight. An easy-to-find supplement with carefully chosen words printed on its bottle is not a promise you’re in safe hands.