Here’s Why Gas Station Heroin Zaza Pills Are a Big Problem

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The proliferation of opioids in the United States has been a growing health crisis for the country. But while most public attention is focused on opioids like oxycodone or synthetic opioids like fentanyl, some fly under the radar.  

One of these, a drug called Zaza, is legal in most US states. While it’s marketed as a dietary supplement that improves brain function, serious side effects have increasingly made news headlines. 

Some have even begun referring to it as “gas station heroin” because of how it mimics the effects of opioids and can be bought openly at gas stations across the country. 

In this article, we’ll explain what this drug is, what the risks are, and when you should seek drug addiction treatment. 

What Is Gas Station Heroin? 

Gas station heroin is a media term that’s been given to the drug tianeptine. It’s also been referred to as “gas station dope.” In the US, it’s sold under the brand names Tianna or Zaza Red.  

Other brand names include Coaxil, Stablon, and Tatinol. 

Tianeptine products (aka gas station heroin) are primarily known as a diet pill in the United States – however, in Europe, it’s been prescribed to treat depression. It is also found in Asian and Latin American countries, making it a global problem. Not only does the U.S. Poison Control Center warn of Zaza, the Food and Drug Administration has as well. 

Tianeptine’s chemical structure and mechanism of action are what make it distinct from other antidepressants from other antidepressants. Unlike most antidepressants, it increases serotonin reuptake in the brain. Instead, it acts on a brain chemical called glutamate which is responsible for transmitting signals in the brain. 

What makes tianeptine stand out, though, is that, in high doses, it mimics the effects of opioids, making it a partial opioid agonist. This makes it unique among other antidepressants and is what has led to its moniker “gas station heroin.” 

In the U.S. multiple states have specifically banned the sale of Zaza pills due to concerns about abuse. 

These states include: 

  • Alabama 
  • Georgia 
  • Indiana 
  • Kentucky 
  • Michigan 
  • Mississippi
  • Ohio  
  • Tennessee 


Most recently, the Florida Attorney General filed an emergency injunction to temporarily ban gas station heroin. The Florida legislature is expected to permanently ban the drug. 

What Are the Dangers of Gas Station Heroin? 

Tianeptine, also known as gas station heroin, is addictive and can produce serious side effects. It’s also been linked to at least five deaths nationwide 

Common side effects of Zaza pills include: 

  • Headache  
  • Dizziness  
  • Insomnia/nightmares  
  • Drowsiness  
  • Dry mouth  
  • Constipation  
  • Nausea 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Weight gain  
  • Agitation 
  • Anxiety/irritability 


Some less common side effects of Zaza Red include: 

  • Bitter taste 
  • Flatulence 
  • Gastralgia 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Premature ventricular contractions 
  • Micturition disturbances 
  • Palpitations 
  • Orthostatic hypotension 
  • Hot flushes 
  • Tremor 

Rare side effects of Zaza include: 

  • Hepatitis 
  • Hypomania 
  • Euphoria 
  • ECG changes 
  • Pruritus/allergic-type skin reactions 
  • Protracted muscle aches 


According to the FDA, poison control center cases involving tianeptine exposure have grown exponentially. There were just 11 total cases between 2000 and 2013; in 2020 alone, however, there were 151 cases. 

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Why Is It Dangerous to Buy Gas Station Drugs? 

Purchasing gas station heroin and other drugs from gas stations is a bad idea. Many supplements found at gas stations aren’t rigorously tested for safety, efficacy, or purity. For example, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved tianeptine as a dietary supplement or medication. Without such regulation, there’s no guarantee you’re getting what the label claims. 

Many drugs interact with each other, sometimes in dangerous ways. When you buy Zaza pills or other gas station drugs, you’re taking things without the advice of a doctor. If you are already on prescription medication, you should consider this. 

Moreover, many of these products are simply ineffective. By purchasing them, you’re spending money on something that doesn’t deliver the promised benefits. 

Addiction Treatment Options 

Everyone’s journey with addiction is unique, and because of this, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming it. Thankfully, there are multiple addiction treatment options available for addiction to gas station heroin.  

A good first step is a medical detox. Detox from tianeptine should be done under medical supervision to ensure safety and manage withdrawal symptoms. Typically, this would involve a using an opioid antagonist.  

One recent study found a combination of naloxone and buprenorphine to be effective. Benzodiazepines may also be used to taper off gas station heroin. Typically, a replacement opioid tapering schedule can be administered over an interval of 7 or 14 days depending on patient history.  

After detoxing, a patient may then proceed to inpatient or outpatient treatment, depending on his or her needs. 

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Addiction Treatment at South Coast Behavioral Health 

For those struggling with addiction to gas station heroin products like Neptune’s Fix or other dangerous drugs, South Coast Behavioral Health is here to help. The long-term risks are potentially dangerous to every aspect of your health and wellness.

The first step before treatment can begin is going through a medical detox. Our medical detox program in California is staffed by caring and compassionate professionals who can provide you with medications to manage your withdrawal symptoms.  

At South Coast, we take pride in offering care that is closely tailored to specific issues. To that end, we offer gender-specific detox programs, with medical detox for men in Irvine, CA, and medical detox for women in Huntington Beach, CA. 

After detoxing, proper treatment can begin. 

Treatment for substance abuse takes place along an entire spectrum of care. Along that entire spectrum are various behavioral therapies, support groups, and the use of medically-assisted treatment (MAT). 

These levels of treatment are, in order, as follows: 

Residential Treatment in California 

After successfully completing medical detox, you’ll move to inpatient treatment in Orange County California. There, you’ll receive medically-assisted treatment and dual diagnosis treatment to deal with any cravings or co-occurring mental health issues you may be battling.  

We also offer residential treatment facilities in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Huntington Beach for those who desire gender-specific treatment. There, patients get round-the-clock medical attention and monitoring while living at the institution full-time. 

In addition to individual and group counseling and medication management, you’ll also have access to leisure activities and family support services. 

Partial Hospitalization in California 

Most clients start substance abuse treatment with South Coast in our residential treatment program. After completing that, many desire something that still provides structure and support, but with extra space and time to oneself. For that, we offer Partial Hospitalization in Newport Beach 

A step down from inpatient care but with more structure than conventional outpatient programs, partial hospitalization offers a good balance for those looking to ease back into normal life.  

Clients can receive care five to seven days a week for a number of hours each day, returning back to their homes in the evening. This way, they can recover without putting their daily lives completely on hold, receiving intense therapeutic interventions like group and individual therapy, skill development, and medication management as necessary. 

Intensive Outpatient Treatment in California 

For those leaving inpatient residential treatment or partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are yet another gradual step forward on the road to recovery. 

With a focus on group therapy, individual counseling, and education, clients undergoing Intensive Outpatient Treatment in Newport Beach can meet three to five days a week. Each session lasts three hours.  

This level of care requires the least amount of attendance at a facility.  

Get Started Today 

If you or a loved one are struggling with tianeptine addiction but wonder how long addiction counseling takes or have other questions, call us at 866-881-1184. Our highly qualified staff will be happy to help give you an idea on what to expect from your addiction recovery timeline, help verify your insurance, and assist with any other questions you may have about tianeptine products. 

Pierce Willans
Kelly McIntyre
Medically Reviewed by Kelly McIntyre, MS, LMFT
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