BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Starting Monday, the drug tianeptine will be classified as a scheduled narcotic and be banned across Alabama.
Back in September, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced that tianeptine, an addictive antidepressant found in many gas stations, would be classified as a Schedule II drug. The classification is reserved for drugs that are considered to have no medical use or can be used with a number of treatment restrictions.
Tianeptine, which medical experts say has similar effects to opioids, is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is also marketed as dietary and herbal supplements.
While other cities across Alabama have taken steps to ban or limit the availability of the drug, this is the first statewide ban. The cities of Oxford and Pell City have already banned the drug.
Sherry Frazier of Decatur has a loved one who is addicted to tianeptine.
“I have been through the extreme difficulties that addiction causes a family, and I have lived, first hand, the devastation that tianeptine causes as a dangerously addictive substance,” Frazier said.
Frazier is among those concerned with how the ban will be enforced, especially with the number of complications the drug presents. For one, there is confusion over its name. Tianeptine is sold under names like “Tianaa,” “Tianna Green,” “Tianna Red,” “Tianna White” and others. However, Frazier believes the Alabama Attorney General’s Office can help.
Law enforcement has already seen drug manufacturers and retailers looking for loopholes in the ban. Major Clay Hammac, the Operations Commander of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said he’s working to close those loopholes.
“We see, once again, manufacturers and even retailers, trying to sidestep the enforcement of this effort by simply changing one letter or two letters in the name,” said Hammac. “It’s still the same harmful product. It still has some of the same consequences. Simply changing the name is not going to change the effect it has on our community.”
Hammac said right now, law enforcement can only enforce the ban on Tianeptine with the same spelling as listed by the department of public health. He said he will be taking this concern to the District Attorney and the Attorney General so that all tianeption, regardless of spelling, is cleared from shelves.
Those impacted by tianeptine addiction are hoping law enforcement does just that.
“I think that local law enforcement and the local DA offices have to work together to determine how to enforce this, but that has not happened yet,” Frazier said.
Frazier said that while the ban does not feel like a full win, it’s a sign of progress.
“I advocate for the ban of tianeptine because I want to keep it from causing the same kind of harm to other individuals and families as it has to mine,” she said.
The state of Michigan previously banned the drug in 2018.