·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Drugs & Medical Devices

OTC Tianeptine, AKA “Gas Station Heroin” a Major Health Concern

— February 2, 2024

A very legal over-the-counter drug is causing significant issues, according to health experts.

When thinking about the battle against the abuse of various substances, it’s easy enough to focus on illegal drugs and the harm they are causing to society. That’s certainly a major problem, but it’s not the only issue that is being faced across the country. In plenty of cases, it’s things that are perfectly legal to purchase that wind up doing significant damage. Alcohol is one thing that would fall into the category of legal yet quite harmful. In addition, more and more supplements and various substances that are sold in places like gas stations and convenience stores can have a negative impact on human health – despite being right there in plain sight and available for purchase over the counter. Something that is known casually as “gas-station heroin,” which is technically tianeptine, has been raising red flags for the impact that it is having.

The product in question is sold under the brand name Neptune’s Fix, which contains tianeptine. Sold as a dietary supplement, tianeptine has been associated with overdoses and deaths. Further, while it is marketed with claims that it can deliver benefits like improving brain function or reducing anxiety, it is not an approved medicine in the United States.

OTC Tianeptine, AKA "Gas Station Heroin" a Major Health Concern
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

Not only does tianeptine have potentially harmful capabilities, but it can also be addictive and lead to ongoing use for individuals who get started with it. When taken, it can offer a short-lived feeling of euphoria when it is used in higher doses. Since the feelings it can deliver are somewhat similar to opioids, it is believed by some people that it’s a safe alternative to “harder” drugs. That’s not necessarily the case, which is why cases of exposure to tianeptine are being reported to poison control in greater and greater numbers.

Experts in this area have divergent opinions on how tianeptine should be addressed in the market. Some feel that it should be more tightly regulated and the supplements that contain tianeptine should be registered strictly. On the other hand, other officials feel that the right way to proceed is to leave the market alone and focus on education of the public, so individuals can understand the risks and make their own decisions.

Clouding the matter is the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only has limited oversight over dietary supplements. That agency is not tasked with evaluating the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements, meaning products that might be addictive can be added to supplements on the open market without much in the way of restrictions holding them back.

Given that it has already been banned in some states, it seems likely that more and more states moving forward will decide that these products have no place being sold over the counter in places like gas stations. With that said, more and more public education is likely needed to help people understand the damages that this and other similar substances can do and offer assistance to those who need to address any kind of chemical dependency.


‘Gas-Station Heroin’ Sold as Dietary Supplement Alarms Health Officials

Tianeptine Products Linked to Serious Harm, Overdoses, Death

Join the conversation!