With news headlines focusing on opioid addiction, any new drug use trends will catch the attention of healthcare providers and public health officials. According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this is happening with a drug called Tianeptine. This new drug is marketed in Europe as an antidepressant under the names Coaxil and Stablon. But why is an antidepressant mentioned in research and news stories for opioid addiction?

This non-FDA approved antidepressant can produce similar feelings of euphoria, similar to the effects of opioid consumption. Public health officials are concerned that people are starting to use the drug Tianeptine as an alternative to opioid-derived painkillers. Like opioids, Tianeptine creates severe withdraw symptoms in casual users who abuse the drug.

From 2014 through 2017, according to CNN, there was an increase in US poison control calls related to the intentional abuse and misuse of the drug. The CDC analyzed all phone calls related to Tianeptine that had been reported by poison control centers to the National Poison Data System from the years 2000 through 2017. The goal of the analysis was to better understand the frequency of Tianeptine abuse and common complaints. During this time period, researchers found an increase in calls related to tianeptine use. More than 80% of these calls involved males. The total number of poison control calls about the drug increased from a total of five in 2014 to 38 in 2015. By 2016 this number had increased to 83 and to 81 by 2017.

Roughly one-third of the phone calls came from states located in the U.S. South, with the average reported age being 35 years old. More than 90% of the calls were made by healthcare providers. The study reported negative effects from the drug including neurologic (confusion), cardiovascular (tachycardia) and gastrointestinal signs and symptoms (nausea and vomiting). During the time period studied, slightly fewer than half the phone calls reported co-exposures to other drugs, including benzodiazepines and opioids, according to the CDC researchers.

The drug was originally created to treat depression in France in 1989. Since this time, Tianeptine has been approved for the treatment of depression in more than 60 countries. However, the drug is not approved by the FDA for use as an antidepressant in the United States. Abuse of the drug is more common in Eastern Europe with the drug actually being made illegal in the nation of Georgia. The increased use of Tianeptine has pushed the CDC to issue warnings about how Tianeptine is an emerging public health risk. The actions of the CDC have also caught the attention of state and federal politicians.

For example, the state of Michigan recently banned the drug with the governor approving a state law that classifies the drug as a schedule 2 controlled substance. The growing concern surrounding the use of this drug recently made national news headlines with the death of two individuals in Texas who appeared to have died from a Tianeptine overdose. These deaths appear to mark the first time that people in the United States have actually died from a Tianeptine overdose.

Tianeptine is similar to a group of antidepressants called tricyclics that date back to the 1950s. However, the drug works differently in the brain. It acts on the mu opioid receptor, the target of morphine and oxycodone. At a standard dose, people who take Tianeptine do not become high, build-up a tolerance or have withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the medication. Problems are occurring due to the fact that people are purchasing the drug online as a research chemical from U.S. companies or as a supplement from companies in China, Mexico, and India.

For additional information about Tianeptine or questions about drug addiction in general, contact the staff at Columbus Addiction Center. Our direct phone numbers are (614) 532 – 1782 or (614) 532 – 7299.

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Tianeptine, Opioid-Like Effects, Non-FDA Approved,

Contributor: ABCS RCM