Hospital warns of tianeptine drug ‘crisis’ in Alabama

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 9:50 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2023 at 10:15 PM CST
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WETUMPKA, Ala. (WSFA) - Tianeptine is one of the latest illegal drugs pouring into Alabama. The substance is marketed as a supplement that helps with anxiety, depression and energy levels. But experts say the drug has side effects similar to heroin.

“Because it is in your brain, it’s like you’re withdrawing from two or three different kinds of drugs all at one time,” said Dr. Melissa Thompson with the Ivy Creek Detox Unit at Elmore Community Hospital.

The hospital is seeing more and more people suffering with tianeptine withdrawal. It makes people anxious, unable to sleep, nauseous, and can even lead to death.

It is difficult to stop the drug from spreading. The doctor said people can get it in neighboring states.

“Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, you can buy it at any gas station,” Thompson said.

In other states, it is commonly referred to as Tianna, Tianna Red and ZaZa.

The doctor said a lot of the patients coming to the facility are college-age students, like students from Auburn University.

“Especially with our proximity to Auburn and the university setting, there is a lot of this dependence that people don’t know about,” Thompson said.

People in professions that require a lot of energy and focus are also hooked on the drug.

To help, the hospital is home to the Ivy Creek Detox Unit, which can help treat tianeptine withdrawal. Hospital officials said not a lot of places know how.

“When people call in or facilities call us, they just are at a lack of knowledge of any other places, and it’s something that we have had some success with here,” said Heidi Smith with Ivy Creek Healthcare.

The hospital wants people to know the risks and how to get treatment in case the substance is too much to bare.

“Because, like we said, we are in a crisis with this,” Smith said.

People who need help can contact the Ivy Creek Detox Unit at 334-567-4311 at extension 2154.

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