Permanent ban on ‘gas station heroin’ prepped for House floor vote

gas station heroin
Attorney General Ashley Moody says the drug has caused 5 deaths nationwide.

Florida is closer than ever to permanently banning a dangerous, often contaminated supplement known commonly as “gas station heroin.”

A bill codifying in state statutes an emergency rule Attorney General Ashley Moody filed last year to place the substance, tianeptine, on the Schedule I list of controlled substances is headed to the House floor.

The measure (HB 1595) by Lake Mary Republican Rep. Rachel Plakon received uniform approval in three committee stops.

It cleared its last hurdle in the chamber when the members of the House Judiciary Committee voted for it 19-0 after little discussion.

Representatives from Moody’s Office and the Florida Smart Justice Alliance signaled support for the statewide prohibition, which would follow similar bans in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tianeptine is an unapproved but not federally banned drug in the U.S. that some people use as an opioid alternative or to self-treat anxiety or depression. French researchers developed it in the 1960s as an antidepressant, and it’s approved today in low doses for that purpose in many Asian, European and Latin American countries.

Products sold in Florida that contain the substance include Pegasus, Tianaa and Zaza Red. Medical research indicates it can be addictive and elicit withdrawal symptoms.

In higher doses or when mixed with other drugs, including antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicines, it can lead to agitation, drowsiness, confusion, sweating, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, slowed or stopped breathing, coma and death.

Moody said that through September, tianeptine was attributed to five deaths nationwide.

The following month, Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson announced a sprawling investigation by his Department into stores across Florida. The result was a seizure of, among other things, 653 packages of “gas station heroin” in Lee and Orange counties.

He vowed to continue to direct “all available resources and work with state and local partners to ensure these dangerous and harmful products … stay out of the state of Florida and out of the hands of our children.”

A twin measure (SB 1512) by Lake Mary Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur cleared the first of three committees to which it was referred last month by an 8-0 vote. It’s scheduled to be heard Thursday at the Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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