US Seizes ‘Gas Station Heroin’ Shipment

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported on Thursday the seizure of more than five kilograms of tianeptine, commonly known as "gas station heroin" - an illegal lab-made chemical antidepressant that has similar effects to opioids if consumed in high doses.

Gas Station HeroinTianeptine shipment seized by U.S. Customs originated in Hong Kong. The drug is not regulated in the United States. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, License)The seized shipment, worth US$246,000, originated in Hong Kong and was destined for Houston, Texas.

Tianeptine is an addictive substance discovered in the 1960s and marketed as an antidepressant. But baseless claims have been made that this substance improves brain function, alleviates pain, and relieves depression and anxiety. So far, it is an unapproved drug in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported cases of people experiencing agitation, drowsiness, confusion, sweating, tachycardia, hypertension, nausea, vomiting, slowed or stopped breathing, coma, and even death due to the abuse or misuse of tianeptine alone or in combination with other drugs such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines.

This has not stopped vendors from promoting and selling this product online in pill or powder form. It is also marketed in smoke shops, convenience stores, and gas stations, hence its popular nickname.

“The FDA is especially concerned about the illegal importation of unsafe drugs like tianeptine which has been shown to pose a significant risk to patients and consumers,” stated the Assistant Commissioner for Import Operations Dan Solis.

“FDA supports CBP’s efforts in protecting the nation’s border through our cooperative partnerships and enforcement actions. Last week’s interception of unapproved tianeptine prevented a dangerous medical product from entering the U.S. and is just one of several examples of positive public health outcomes from our strong partnership,” he added.