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It’s a powerful antidepressant that’s used for major depressive disorder in other countries. It also acts as an opioid, meaning it can provide the same kind of high as codeine, Vicodin or heroin. Some users describe the withdrawal effects from the drug as more intense than all those.
And you can buy it, in many cases, at your local Shell station.
The chemical name of the substance in question is tianeptine. Originally developed in France, it’s a tricyclic antidepressant marketed in Europe, Asia and Latin America and used primarily to treat major depressive disorders.
In the United States, it’s never been approved for medical use by the Food and Drug Administration. However, that means it falls under a strange loophole in U.S. law — one that, according to Vice News, has earned the drug the moniker “gas station heroin.”
“It’s not a controlled substance and is typically sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement, nootropic (a chemical that improves cognitive function), or a research chemical under brand names like ZaZa Red, TD Red, and Tianna,” Vice reported on Dec. 12. “It can be found in gas stations or easily bought online.”
Tianeptine isn’t the first psychoactive substance that falls into a legal gray area, allowing it to be sold easily and legally. “Bath salts,” a series of synthetic cathinone designer drugs also sold in gas stations, became a serious public health issue in the early 2010s.
Tianeptine also isn’t the only drug to be controlled by prescriptions in other countries but freely available in the United States because of how the country’s drug laws work.
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