Zaza Red

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Zaza red is a drug that was originally formulated as an antidepressant.  Nicknamed “gas station heroin zaza,” in larger doses,  the zaza pills produce the euphoric effects associated with opioids. The active ingredient in Zaza Red is Tianeptine.  

Back in 2019, an Alabama toxicologist [1] was confronted by an outbreak of patients in the ER. The patients were suffering from “gas station dope” withdrawal. The mystery substance was causing severe withdrawal symptoms, and often the patients were admitted to the ICU. At the time, little was known about Zaza Red, the drug causing the symptoms. Searching for answers, the toxicologist turned to users’ reports on Reddit for more answers. On Reddit, he discovered accounts of people who spoke of taking the zaza drug to “feel okay.” The zaza pills seemed to be a replacement for prescription antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds for many.  Further research on his part led to a published review of the drug and its adverse effects. This created legislature in Alabama to get Zaza Red off the shelves and sounded the alarm across the country on this emerging drug trend.

From the years 2014-2019, use of the  Zaza drug increased “24-fold’’. The drug is used by those seeking relief from depressive symptoms. Available for purchase at gas stations, it’s been the latest trend in a concerning track of dangerous gas station substances. It is also available for purchase online and in many local convenience stores.

What Is Tianeptine?

Tianeptine is an antidepressant that works on atypical centers in the brain. Doctors have also prescribed it for asthma and irritable bowel syndrome. Upon entering the brain, Tianeptine binds to opioid receptors, enhancing serotonin absorption. Simultaneously, maintaining the availability of dopamine in the brain. The result is a boost in mood and relief from depressive symptoms. However, the drug is addictive since it affects the brain’s reward system. The drug is prescribed but closely monitored in parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. In the U.S., the FDA has not approved Tianeptine due to its addictive qualities.  The substance has made it into pills marketed as weight loss medications called Zaza Red.

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What Is Zaza Red?

Zaza Red, Tianna, Tianna Red, and Tianna White are all street names for Tianeptine. Marketed as weight loss pills, they are sold over the counter throughout the United States.  Consumers report improved cognitive function and “feeling okay” as effects of the drug.

What Does Zaza Look Like And Where Can It Be Bought?  

The zaza pills come in small red and white capsules and can be found online, in gas stations, and in convenience stores. The drug contains a low dose of Tianeptine, between 25-30mg. However, users often consume it in far larger quantities to obtain a euphoric effect.

Addiction to Tianeptine

The FDA’s concern about the addictive quality of Tianeptine has been well-founded. Since the drug’s mechanism works on opioid receptors and dopamine, the potential for addiction is high. The body craves the drug when it isn’t present and associates it with feelings of pleasure. Therefore, the drug contains a high potential for abuse. Not only has it been proven to be addictive, it has also the potential to be a gateway to other opioid abuse. Studies have found that far more males use Tianeptine than females. Long-term use of the drug can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Tianeptine Withdrawal

Once Tianeptine leaves the user’s system, withdrawal symptoms will set in. The longer and more frequently one has been using the drug, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms will be.

How Long Does Tianeptine Stay In Your System?

Tianeptine is rapidly broken down in the blood. Therefore, it has a short half-life compared to other drugs. The half-life of Tianeptine is 2.5 hours, which causes withdrawal symptoms to set in quickly. This increases the chances of cravings while withdrawing. Withdrawal symptoms often mimic opioids since the drug binds to opioid receptors in the brain.

Identifying Zaza Side Effects

The Zaza Red/Tianeptine side effects range from concerning to fatality risk in extreme cases.

Common zaza drug side effects include:

·   Depression and Anxiety

·       Insomnia

·       Body Aches

·       Chills or Hot Flashes

·       Cold or Flu-like Symptoms

·   Abnormal Body Movements


While not common, studies have found the potential for psychotic symptoms upon withdrawal in some cases.

Tianeptine Overdose Symptoms

Symptoms of overdose from Tianeptine typically set in about two hours after the last dose. Symptoms can be extreme, with physical symptoms and agitation being challenging to manage. If someone experiences extreme symptoms, they should immediately go to the nearest emergency room.  Some patients have needed to be admitted to the ICU to manage symptoms.

How Long Does Tianeptine Withdrawal Last?

Studies have shown that withdrawal typically lasts a week. However, symptoms can start later than expected and last longer.

Early withdrawal stage - During the first few days of withdrawal, flu-like symptoms will occur. This can include muscle aches, runny nose, watery eyes, and increased anxiety, insomnia, and agitation. These symptoms can last 1-3 days, depending on the person.

Late stages of withdrawal - during this stage, a person may experience abdominal cramps, diarrhea, dilated pupils, nausea, vomiting, cravings, and depression. These symptoms may carry on for a few more days.

Although not common, some patients experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms after quitting Tianeptine. This usually occurs when another opioid use is present. Symptoms of PAWS can be challenging to manage and last a few months.

In What States Is Tianeptine Illegal?

While the FDA has not approved Tianeptine, it is still legal to purchase in most states.

There are a few states that have taken measures to control the substance.

The following states have restricted the use of Zaza Red.

·   Alabama

·       Minnesota

·       Michigan

·       Oklahoma

·       Tennessee

·   Georgia

Does Zaza Red Show Up on Drug Screens?

One of the issues doctors confront when treating patients with Tianeptine overdoses is that it does not show up on a drug screen. The drug is metabolized as TCA a compound not tested for in most drug screens.

Zaza Red Alternative Options

Zaza Red is another cautionary tale of the dangers of “gas station drugs.” Like many of its predecessors, the drug has many unwanted and unaccounted-for side effects. For someone looking for a solution to depressive symptoms, anxiety, or cognitive function, a doctor should be consulted, and appropriate medication can be prescribed. As for weight loss, the FDA cautions against marketed “miracle drugs”, and a balanced approach to weight loss is recommended. As one can see, the risks associated with Zaza Red and other “gas station drugs” is too high. The safer, slower alternatives are safer and can give real results.

If you or your loved one are struggling with zaza red addiction, reach out to us at Avenues Recovery for a variety of confidential, professional, and effective treatment plans. Our team has extensive experience with substance abuse, overdose, and withdrawal and will help you regain a drug-free life.

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