A user on TikTok has sparked discussion after issuing a warning against “gas station heroin,” which she says was gifted to her by her local vape shop.
In a video with over 553,000 views as of Sunday, TikTok user Cam (@notthatbadbitchcam) claims that she was given a bottle of pills as a gift from a worker at a vape shop that she frequents. As she’s received gifts from the store in the past, she was not immediately surprised by the move.
However, when she got back to her car, she decided to look up the contents of the pills — only to find that they contained Tianeptine, sometimes referred to as “gas station heroin.”
“It’s as addictive as opioids, [and] marketed as dietary supplements to get people to buy them,” Cam says. “My question is, why would he give these to someone? Does he know what they are? Is he trying to say something? Does he want me dead?”
While tianeptine was discovered in the 1960s, its recent proliferation is causing major concerns. The drug is federally legal in the United States and, according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people reporting adverse responses to the drug has gone up in recent years.
“Tianeptine exposure calls, including those for intentional abuse or misuse, increased across the United States during 2014–2017, suggesting a possible emerging public health risk,” the report noted.
Their assessment of the possibility of it becoming a major health risk appears to be correct. As the FDA recently noted, there were only 11 total poison control cases of tianeptine exposure between 2000 and 2013. In 2020 alone, that number was 151.
Tianeptine has also become easier to purchase. Given its federal legality, companies have taken to selling the drug under brand names like Zaza, Tianaa, and Pegasus.
In an Instagram DM exchange with Daily Dot, Cam says that she was startled after finding out what the pills were, eventually deciding to dispose of them.
“I tried to figure out what they were because I had never seen anything or heard of anything like the bottle. Called a couple friends and we all were in shock when I figured out what it was,” she wrote. “I ended up throwing them away because I don’t condone taking pills, especially if you have no idea what they are.”
As Cam shares in her video, the effects of tianeptine have been compared to heroin and other opioids. This includes the withdrawal symptoms associated with such drugs.
“…The daily experience for many tianeptine users is indistinguishable from traditional opioid addiction, with withdrawal symptoms including nausea, chills, restless legs, agitation, insomnia, diarrhea, and an overwhelming sense of doom,” writes Manisha Krishnan for VICE. “One user said he became suicidal while self-detoxing, and another said his addiction led him back to using illicit fentanyl.”
Issues with the drug have caused some states to move to ban it. At the time of writing, tianeptine is banned in the states of Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. In Minnesota, the state in which Cam resides, the drug is also banned, meaning that Cam’s vape shop provided her with a Schedule I substance.
On TikTok, users speculated as to why the vape shop attendant provided her with such a drug.
“He was trying to get you hooked for sure,” one user offered.
“Smoke shops get tons of random free samples,” another suggested. “dude probably didn’t really know what they were and just gave them to you.”
“You should inform him what they are,” agreed a third. “He might honestly not know.”
However, Cam herself thinks that the attendant’s motives may have been more nefarious.
“I think [he gave them to me] to get me hooked,” she tells Daily Dot via Instagram direct message. “I’ve been going there for 2+ years and I think since I go in all the time he thought I needed something more.”
“From what I’ve read and seen…[tianeptine] is just horrible,” she continued. “I think it’s crazy that this is still able to be sold in some places. This drug is ruining people’s lives; it’s so sad to see our communities go through the struggle of addiction, yet we have people just giving it out for free.”