Health Alert: Poison control warns of dangers of ‘gas station heroin’

It didn’t take us long to find the pills locally that are being banned in other states

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A product some states have dubbed “gas station heroin” is legally sold over the counter in Florida.

The product usually is sold in pill form in bottles and marketed as a dietary supplement. The ingredient of concern is called tianeptine.

Different brands include Za Za or Pegasus. Multiple states have either made the products illegal or reported medical emergencies due to the products.

“Tianeptine is an actual product or pharmaceutical product that is available by prescription in foreign countries. You can buy it in Russia or other countries. It’s an antidepressant there,” said Dr. Dawn Sollee, who’s the director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Jacksonville. “If you stop taking it very quickly within a short time period, patients go into withdrawal and a lot of the emergency department visits are due to withdrawal from tianeptine and not the exposure itself.”

We began looking for the product on shelves in Jacksonville because nationally there have been multiple stories about it being sold in gas stations, which is why it’s been nicknamed “gas station heroin.”

Most gas stations we stopped at didn’t have it and the workers had never heard of it. But at one gas station where they sell other smoke shop like items, the clerk said they carry it but were currently out of stock.

At another gas station, they told us they hadn’t heard of it but would be more than willing to order some if we were willing to pay.

However, when we checked local smoke shops, it didn’t take us long to find. The bottles cost roughly $30 each.

When we told Sollee we found it locally in Jacksonville, she was frankly surprised -- particularly about the product we found.

“I was kind of surprised considering that the FDA has specifically done a letter to that company so I was kind of surprised that was there,” she said.

The product is considered like heroin because it affects the same receptors in the brain as opioids. Some gas stations asked us if it’s similar to another product -- Kratom. Sollee said it’s not.

She said Kratom is plant-based while tianeptine is a lot more addictive and can cause withdrawal a lot easier.

We tried to look into the manufacturers of the products we found and didn’t have much luck. Za Za’s label read it’s distributed by “M&J Distribution in Villa Rica, GA.”

We couldn’t find that company and neither could the state of Alabama which has investigated tianeptine products. In a letter to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the state wrote: “the Georgia Corporations Division’s database ( does not list a company matching the name, M&J Distribution, to an address in Villa Rica, GA 30180.”

In 2021, Alabama banned the product for sale in the state.

If you have any concerns about tianeptine-based products, you can call the poison information center’s number. The Poison Help Line is 1-800-222-1222.

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Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.