ZaZa Red, or Gas Station Heroin, Gets Banned in Alabama

In the United States, dangerous substances like ZaZa Red, nicknamed gas station heroin by poison control and law enforcement agencies, are often sold as dietary supplements to get around regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This mislabeling gives the false impression to people that Zaza Red is a safer or natural alternative to other drugs, leading to misuse, addiction, and overdoses.

ZaZa Red has become widespread enough in southern states that Alabama and Tennessee enacted statewide bans, with sheriff departments conducting random searches of gas stations and convenience stores to ensure they comply with the law.

For some people already addicted to the opioid-like effects of ZaZa, the ban will do little to deter them from crossing state lines to find it or turning to other opioids. Ironically, even though many people take Zaza Red to ease their opioid withdrawal symptoms, tianeptine withdrawal is very similar and, in some cases, even more intense, depending on the length and frequency of use.

What Is ZaZa Red?

ZaZa Red, also called Tiana Red, ZaZa, or Tiana, is sold in the United States as a dietary supplement and mood booster but is a highly addictive synthetic drug.

Commonly sold in gas stations and convenience stores, ZaZa Red comes in pill, capsule, or liquid form. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved ZaZa Red for medical use and warns that consuming unregulated supplements can lead to overdoses and dangerous drug interactions.

ZaZa Red is highly addictive because it acts like a combination of antidepressants and opioids. When ZaZa Red ingredients enter the brain, it causes increases in extracellular dopamine, causing intense feelings of relaxation and euphoria while also making users feel content and motivated. Zaza wears off quickly compared to other opioids, with some users taking more doses every four to six hours to maintain their high.

ZaZa Red Ingredients

ZaZa Red’s primary ingredient is tianeptine. Tianeptine is structurally similar to tricyclic antidepressants but is unique because it binds to MU opioid receptors. MU opioid receptors are where opioids like heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid painkillers attach to give their addictive effects.

Because ZaZa Red ingredients are unregulated in the United States and sold as a dietary supplement, they can vary, and manufacturers are not required to disclose their proprietary blends.

Several samples of ZaZa pills and liquid shots tested by labs showed plant matter similar to kava and other non-narcotic fillers like vegetable oil. ZaZa Red extra strength pills contained the same ingredients but in more significant amounts.

What Is ZaZa Red Used For?

People use ZaZa Red as a mood booster or as what they believe to be a safer substitute for opioids.

While investigating ZaZa Red, Erowid, a group researching psychoactive drugs, interviewed users about their experiences with Zaza. Many users described the effects as physical relaxation but mental clarity and motivation.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has documented Zaza Red packaging claiming that it helps improve brain function, reduce anxiety, relieve pain, and treat opioid use disorder. None of these claims are scientifically proven, and self-medicating with any substance can be dangerous or lethal.

ZaZa Red Side Effects

The side effects of ZaZa Red can be unpredictable because each batch can vary in strength.

ZaZa Red side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Vivid dreaming
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Slowed breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Withdrawal

Because ZaZa is similar to tricyclic antidepressants, mixing it with alcohol carries additional risks.

Immediately call 911 if you believe someone is overdosing on ZaZa Red. Although ZaZa binds to MU opioid receptors, opioid receptor antagonists like Narcan have not been able to reverse overdoses.

what is zaza red used for

Tianeptine Withdrawal Symptoms

Tianeptine, the main active ingredient in ZaZa Red, is what makes it both highly addictive and causes withdrawal symptoms.

People who habitually combine alcohol and antidepressants like tianeptine will experience additional complicated withdrawal symptoms.

Tianeptine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Twitching
  • Muscle cramps and spasms

Tianeptine withdrawal is rarely fatal, but it can be intense and unpredictable. If you plan to stop taking ZaZa Red, you should talk to a medical professional; they may recommend medical detox to ensure your safety during withdrawal.

Alabama Department of Public Health

In the United States, most new drugs emerge in states that border other countries or international waters because that is where they’re the easiest to smuggle in. Interestingly, ZaZa Red is most prevalent in the South, with states like Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee seeing a drastic increase in emergency department visits and poison control calls involving tianeptine exposure and overdoses.

On March 15, 2021, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) legally declared products containing tianeptine schedule II controlled substances and banned gas stations, convenience stores, and other places from selling them. The Dekalb County Sheriff’s Department gave business owners 48 hours to remove the products from their shelves or face fines and legal penalties, including felony charges.

A week after the ban in Alabama became effective, ADPH and poison control reported an influx of emergency calls from people experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. In June, Tennessee followed suit and banned all products containing tianeptine.

While Alabama has banned ZaZa Red, Georgia and most other states have yet to take action to limit its spread. Conflicting laws and easy interstate travel make regulating and reducing the availability of ZaZa difficult. Adding to that is that the illicit drug market always seems to be one step ahead of law enforcement and creating new drugs to skirt existing laws.

Medical Detox and Substance Use Disorder Treatment

If you or a loved one have been self-medicating with or become addicted to ZaZa Red or any other substances, compassionate help is available.

At Northridge Addiction Treatment Center, we specialize in treating substance use disorders with evidence-based treatments that address the roots of addiction and prioritize your health and comfort.

We offer onsite medical detox to ensure your withdrawal experience is as safe as possible with 24-hour medical care and support. Our licensed and experienced team works closely with you to develop and follow a personalized treatment plan that allows you to overcome addiction and start your unique path to recovery.

Reach out to us today. Our caring treatment specialists are eager to get you the help you need.

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