🔴The number of tianeptine calls to the NJ Poison Control Center is on the rise

🔴Products marketed as Neptune's Fix might contain synthetic cannabis

🔴The supplement is not FDA-approved in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a warning that readily purchased tianeptine products, particularly those marketed as “Neptune’s Fix”, might contain synthetic cannabis.


What is tianeptine?

Tianeptine is an anti-depressant with opioid effect, a dangerous and addictive ingredient sold illegally as a dietary supplement, said Dr. Diane Calello, executive and medical director at The Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers NJ Medical School in Newark.

She said tianeptine has been approved in other countries for its anti-depressant effects, but it is not FDA-approved in the U.S. for safety reasons.

Even more unnerving is that tianeptine supplement products can be readily purchased at places like gas stations, convenience shops, smoke shops, and online, Calello said.

“They are not safe to use and have been linked to an outbreak of poisoning here in New Jersey,” she said.

In June 2023, The NJ Poison Control Center started receiving a lot of calls about tianeptine illnesses, which was unusual, Calello said.

In the past, the center would receive a baseline of one or two calls per year regarding tianeptine exposures.

By the end of June, the center received six phone calls about tianeptine ingestion associated with severe adverse effects, including seizure and cardiac arrest in New Jersey. That was only one month’s worth of calls.

Since then, more than 20 cases of tianeptine ingestion were reported, Calello added.

Neptune's Fix (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
Neptune's Fix (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

What are the adverse effects?

Effects vary because part of the problem with these products is that they all don’t contain the same ingredients. But Calello said the NJ Poison Control Center has seen effects like drowsiness, a drop in blood pressure, seizures, cardiac arrest, and even fatalities.

The Investigation

After seeing an unusual uptick in tianeptine calls to the poison center, Calello said they decided to investigate further. She said they were fortunate that some patients whom the center was treating, sent samples of the product they had consumed.

A forensic lab tested a few “Neptune’s Fix” products and what they found was that some samples contained only tianeptine and kava, which users thought they were buying anyway.

But Calello said other samples contained many other ingredients that were not on the label like synthetic cannabis. This is a marijuana-like compound made in a lab, which is not as safe as cannabis and can have a lot of unpredictable effects.

Neptune's Fix (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
Neptune's Fix (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Misleading Labels

“Unfortunately, misleading labels and hidden ingredients are not uncommon when it comes to supplements,” Calello said.

These are sold as supplements, and marketed for a variety of vague indications like wellness, well-being, and mood, she said.

However, because they are supplements and not regulated like drugs, the labeling may be inaccurate. It may not have any information about adverse effects, and more importantly, it may contain something completely different than what users are buying, Calello said.

“So, it’s important to me, and to us at The New Jersey Poison Center that if people are using these products, that they be alert to the fact that if they’re experiencing symptoms that are not typical, there may be something wrong with that product,” she added.

Some people take tianeptine regularly and feel that it’s necessary to keep them healthy. But if people are using it every day, these products, particularly “Neptune’s Fix” can be a lot more than what they bargained for, she said.

If people have not tried tianeptine, do not start, Calello warned. These calls to the poison center have been a lot, pointing to the fact that it is a continuing problem in New Jersey.

If you have any questions about tianeptine exposure, please call the NJ Poison Control Center 24 hours a day seven days a week at 1-800-222-1222.

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