ZaZa capsules legal in Georgia but illegal in Alabama

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, October 27, 2021

WEST POINT — A drug marketed as a dietary supplement has been outlawed in Alabama, but it’s still available for purchase in Georgia.

Tianeptine is often sold under the brand names Tianaa and ZaZa. With Troup County on the state line, there’s concern that the drug could be purchased in Georgia and carried into Alabama, where it’s illegal to possess without a prescription and sell over the counter. On Tuesday, The Valley Times-News visited three convenience stations in West Point and found ZaZa in plain sight at the front counter of one.

Fortunately, issues with the drug haven’t been a major problem in the Chambers County area.

Capt. Robert Chambers with the Chambers County Drug Task Force said his organization mainly deals with stores selling the drug as opposed to individuals possessing it.

“It’s not as bad as some places,” he said. “We do have some stores that we’re dealing with on it.”

Lt. Lancer Martinez of the CCDTF said the drug became illegal in Alabama on March 15, 2021, and that it’s a schedule II drug. While he hasn’t come across stores selling the drug in Alabama, Martinez said he has seen it being sold in Georgia.

“If you bring it into Alabama, if you’re in possession of it, you will be arrested if we catch you with it,” he said.

Martinez said possessing Tianeptine pills is a felony in Alabama.

Patricia McGuire, director of the Chambers County Court Referral Program and Chambers County Drug Court, said there aren’t currently any clients in her program because of the drug.

“We have had a handful of run-ins with it, but it doesn’t seem to be a major problem that we’re seeing through the court system as of right now,” she said.

McGuire said she probably last saw a tianeptine case in her program in 2019.

“It was just a handful — maybe three for four people — would admit to using it on occasion,” she said.

She named Naomi’s Home and New Birth Ministries as two places people can self-admit in Chambers County if they get addicted to tianeptine.

Sgt. Stewart Smith of the Troup County Sheriff’s Office said his investigators haven’t encountered tianeptine being sold in Troup County. One investigator said that as far as he knows, the drug isn’t legal in Georgia. However, Special Agent in Charge Joe Chesnut of the GBI’s Region 3 investigative office said he couldn’t find evidence that the drug is outlawed by the state of Georgia.

“I can’t find anything to give you a definitive answer,” Chesnut said.

“It is not approved by the FDA.”

Taken in high doses, tianeptine mimics the effects of opioids. It can be addictive and is not approved as a drug in the U.S., according to the FDA. However, it is used as an antidepressant in Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Withdrawal effects of tianeptine include vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, severe anxiety, confusion, severe agitation, high blood pressure, high heart rate and severe sweating.

The FDA says that tianeptine doesn’t meet the statutory definition of a dietary ingredient and is an unsafe food additive. It explains that under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, dietary supplements must contain at least one “dietary ingredient.”

“A “dietary ingredient” is a vitamin; mineral; herb or other botanical; amino acid; dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake; or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of the preceding substances,” says the FDA.

“Non-dietary ingredients intended for use in dietary supplements must be used in accordance with a food additive regulation or be generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Because tianeptine does not qualify as a dietary ingredient, is not an approved food additive, and is not GRAS, dietary supplements containing tianeptine are adulterated under the Act.”

The VTN reached out to Za Za Red via email but did not receive a response.