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‘Gas station heroin’ is growing threat in New Jersey, health officials warn: ‘Dangerous and addictive’

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‘Gas station heroin’ is growing threat in New Jersey, health officials warn: ‘Dangerous and addictive’

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A dangerous drug is causing a spike of illnesses in New Jersey, health officials warn — and in many cases, the drug is being sold on the shelves of corner convenience stores.

Neptune’s Elixir and ZaZa Red — also referred to as “gas station heroin” — are just two of the products that are being marketed as dietary supplements. They’re sold in gas stations and on the internet, according to a health alert from the New Jersey Department of Health.

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Between June and Nov. 2023, there were 20 reported cases of tianeptine causing “severe clinical effects” in New Jersey, as noted in a Feb. 1 alert from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

OZEMPIC AND WEGOVY OVERDOSE CALLS HAVE SPIKED, EXPERTS SAY — HERE’S WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT DANGEROUS DOSES

This is a significant spike from the two or fewer calls the poison center typically receives each year.

What is tianeptine?

Tianeptine is a tricyclic antidepressant that has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Some companies market the drug as an aid for pain, anxiety and depression, or as a means of improving mental alertness. 

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Neptune’s Fix Elixir is one of the products being marketed as dietary supplements and sold in gas stations and online, according to a health alert from the New Jersey Department of Health. Fox News Digital reached out to Neptune Resources and others for comment.  (FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, Health Fraud Branch)

It is also sometimes billed as a “safer” alternative to opioids — but experts are warning that it has highly addictive and dangerous properties.

“Tianeptine interacts with opioid receptors in the brain, and in larger doses, can mimic the effects of traditional heroin such as euphoria, but also the consequences frequently associated with tolerance, withdrawal and toxicity,” Dr. David Campbell, clinical and program director of Recover Together Bend in Oregon, told Fox News Digital. 

“With such ease of access, even kids are getting caught in the crossfire.”

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Tianeptine can be sold as a pill, powder, salt or in liquid form as a supplement — or as an active ingredient in a supplement — and is widely available in many states, noted Dr. Adam Scioli, corporate medical director and head of psychiatry at Caron Treatment Centers in Philadelphia.

“We have seen patients come in having gotten tianeptine over the internet or at gas stations,” Scioli told Fox News Digital. “They often suffer from withdrawal symptoms similar to those of an opioid withdrawal and often need medication-assisted treatment such as buprenorphine.”

Teen convenience store

“With such ease of access, even kids are getting caught in the crossfire,” an addiction specialist warned. (iStock)

“Why it is being sold commercially as an active ingredient in a supplement in everyday settings is beyond me.”

The widespread availability and ease of accessibility at gas stations, minimarts and smoke shops is one of the main reasons people seek it out, Scioli said. 

“These are dangerous, addictive substances with potentially fatal outcomes.”

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“There is also this ongoing misconception that if something is easily accessible, legal in some states and available, it is safe — which isn’t true of several substances, not just products that contain tianeptine,” Scioli warned. 

“These are dangerous, addictive substances with potentially fatal outcomes.”

Dangers of tianeptine

Scioli called tianeptine a “substance of abuse” that can be addictive and fatal. 

“Tricyclic antidepressants have what we call a narrow, therapeutic index, meaning that it is fairly easy to tip into the non-therapeutics/toxic range,” he said. 

Sick teen

Among tianeptine’s significant and severe withdrawal symptoms, according to Campbell, are nausea, vomiting, confusion, flu-like symptoms, depression, anxiety, coma and even respiratory failure and overdose. (iStock)

“Tricyclic antidepressants in and of themselves can also cause seizures, electrolyte abnormality and death in overdose. Symptoms will be similar to an opioid withdrawal or overdose.”

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Among tianeptine’s significant and severe withdrawal symptoms, according to Campbell, are nausea, vomiting, confusion, flu-like symptoms, depression, anxiety, coma and even respiratory failure and overdose.

Calls for regulation and awareness

In 2023, the FDA posted an alert warning of the dangers of Neptune’s Fix or any other product containing tianeptine.

“FDA has received severe adverse event reports after use of Neptune’s Fix products, including seizures and loss of consciousness leading to hospitalization,” the agency stated.

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“FDA considers tianeptine to be a substance that does not meet the statutory definition of a dietary ingredient and is an unsafe food additive. The FDA is aware of several serious adverse event reports associated with tianeptine.”

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Scioli pointed out that several states — including Florida, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio — have made tianeptine illegal to sell.

“Despite that, companies are marketing and selling products containing tianeptine to consumers,” he warned.

FDA sign

In 2023, the FDA posted an alert warning of the dangers of Neptune’s Fix or any other product containing tianeptine. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo)

Campbell of Recover Together Bend in Oregon echoed the need for greater regulation of tianeptine.

“The FDA ought to be called upon to act now before the increasing use of this substance and other ‘gas station drugs’ leads to yet another drug epidemic in this country,” he said.

“Until the time comes when tianeptine is more strictly regulated or preferably banned, prevention and education must take center stage for parents, schools and other institutions to curtail the scope of underage use,” he added.

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Mark Stovall, regional executive director for American Addiction Centers in Mississippi, noted that the FDA has urged convenience stores, gas stations and other organizations to stop selling tianeptine products, but said there needs to be increased awareness of non-approved FDA drugs and supplements to prevent severe health risks and addictions

“With such ease of access, even kids are getting caught in the crossfire.”

“If you have an inkling of gas station drugs being sold in the future, be empowered to apply community pressure,” Stovall advised in an interview with Fox News Digital. 

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“Take initiative by visiting your local gas station and ask them why they’re selling these addictive drugs. Explain the dangers and ask them to stop selling before more individuals are negatively impacted. Talk with your local law enforcement. Some local officials have already started to control these dangerous substances even without federal involvement.”

Hospital treatment

Anyone who is using tianeptine or a product containing tianeptine and is experiencing withdrawal symptoms should seek emergency medical assistance, experts say. (iStock)

The experts also urged parents and caregivers to be aware of the risk to kids and teens.

“With so many supplements and substances easily available to children through the internet and stores, it is imperative that parents, guardians and schools become educated — not just about the substances and their effects, but also about how to talk to children and teens about them,” said Scioli. 

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR HEALTH NEWSLETTER

“An open dialogue is imperative, especially with the proliferation of adulterated drugs sold online. With the overdose risk, there is no safe experimentation.”

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On Jan. 28, 2024, Neptune Resources, LLC, the maker of Neptune’s Fix, issued a voluntary recall of its products due to the presence of tianeptine — but experts are warning that other products may also contain the drug.

Fox News Digital reached out to Neptune Resources, LLC — based in Kansas City, Missouri, according to the FDA’s announcement of the recall — as well as to MRSS Inc. (maker of ZaZa Red) and Super Chill Products, a New York-based distributor of Neptune’s products that has since issued a recall.

Comments were also requested from the FDA and the New Jersey Department of Health.

Parent teen talking

Experts urged parents and caregivers to be aware of the risk to kids and teens and to maintain an open dialogue. (iStock)

Anyone who is using tianeptine or a product containing tianeptine and is experiencing withdrawal symptoms can call the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or seek emergency medical assistance, experts advised.

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.

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Health

Health weekend roundup: A mother's health mission, sleep-blocking foods, heat illnesses and more

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Health weekend roundup: A mother's health mission, sleep-blocking foods, heat illnesses and more

Fox News Digital publishes an array of health pieces all week long to keep you in the know on a range of wellness topics: health care access, innovative surgeries, cancer research, mental health trends and much more — plus, personal stories of people and families overcoming great obstacles.

Check out some top recent stories in Health as your weekend continues — and prep for the week ahead.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR HEALTH NEWSLETTER

These are just a few of what’s new, of course. 

There are many more to see at http://www.foxnews/health

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Utah mom fights for her daughter’s access to ‘life-saving’ medication

For Ruby Smart, 15, Levemir is the insulin medication that works best to control her type 1 diabetes — but the manufacturer is discontinuing it. 

Alison Smart is on a mission to protect her daughter’s access to the drug. Click here to get the story.

Utah mother Alison Smart (in green sweater, pictured with Ruby Smart, age 15) is fighting for her teenage daughter’s access to diabetes medicine. (Alison Smart/iStock)

CDC warns of extreme heat dangers

Is extreme heat a public health threat? 

Fox News Digital reports the findings in the latest Mortality & Morbidity Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a spike in emergency room visits due to heat-related illness. Doctors chime in on the potential risk. Click here to get the story.

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Thermometer - heat wave

Many regions across the United States experienced “record-breaking high temperatures” in 2023 due to extreme heat, according to the CDC. (iStock)

Surprising reason for sleep struggles

If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, you might be overlooking one important lifestyle factor. 

Two sleep specialists reveal essential ingredients for high-quality sleep. Click here to get the story.

Snacks/insomnia

What you eat can have an impact on how well you sleep at night, experts say. (iStock)

The girl who can’t smile

Tayla Clement, 26, was born with a rare disorder that has made it impossible for her to smile — but she says she is grateful for it. 

The New Zealand woman discusses with Fox News Digital how she overcame trauma and learned to celebrate her differences. Click here to get the story.

Tayla Clement split image

Tayla Clement, born and raised in New Zealand, has Moebius syndrome, a neurological disease that affects one child out of every 50,000 to 500,000. (Tayla Clement)

‘Forever chemicals’ found in water across US

A new study found that higher amounts of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) were found in drinking water in certain parts of the U.S. 

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Public health experts weigh in on the risks of the toxic chemicals. Click here to get the story.

Happy beautiful young woman drinking water

PFAS “hot spots” were concentrated in the Midwest, New England and the West Coast, the researchers found. (iStock)

Pick-me-ups to beat the midday slump

Is the “post-lunch coma” slowing down your productivity? 

A nutritional biologist shares six proven energy-boosters to to prevent post-meal fatigue. Click here to get the story.

Health weekend recap

This week’s health recap includes stories about heat hazards, a mother’s fight for her daughter’s diabetes medication, and a little-known disruption of healthy sleep. (iStock / Alison Smart)

Drinking pure orange juice is linked to surprising benefits

A new study found that people who drank 100% orange juice consumed fewer calories than those who drank a sugar-sweetened orange beverage. 

Nutritionists reacted to the findings. Click here to get the story.

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Americans need more sleep and less stress

Many U.S. adults are getting too little sleep and have too much stress, according to a new Gallup poll. 

Dr. Marc Siegel of New York and a sleep expert and behavioral scientist discuss the connection between disordered sleep and dangerous stress levels. Click here to get the story.

Tired woman at computer

The poll showed that 63% of Americans who reported wanting more sleep also “frequently experience stress.” (iStock)

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.

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Americans need more sleep, less stress, experts say, as Gallup poll reveals troubling findings

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Americans need more sleep, less stress, experts say, as Gallup poll reveals troubling findings

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Many Americans are getting too little sleep and have too much stress.

A new Gallup poll revealed 57% of adults would “feel better if they got more sleep,” while 42% said they get “as much sleep as they need.”

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These findings have nearly reversed in the last decade, Gallup noted in a press release. The last measurement in 2013 found that 56% of Americans got the sleep they needed while 43% did not.

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Overall, however, Americans are getting fewer hours of sleep than they did in past decades.

In 1942, 59% of Americans were getting eight hours or more of sleep per night, while only 3% were getting five hours or less.

Fifty-seven percent of adults said they would “feel better if they got more sleep,” a new Gallup poll revealed. (iStock)

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In 2024, only 25% of Americans get an average of eight hours of sleep, and 20% reported sleeping for five or less.

Young women are the least likely to get enough sleep, according to the study — with 36% of females versus 48% of males reporting getting enough shuteye.

SLEEP DISORDERS AND SUICIDE: A MENTAL HEALTH EXPERT REVEALS THE CONCERNING LINK

Sleep amounts for both men and women showed “significant declines from previous readings in 2013 and 2004,” according to Gallup — and are the lowest measured for each group to date.

The decline was found across all age groups, although young adults between ages 18 and 29 saw the smallest difference.

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Stress-sleep connection

Gallup suggested that an uptick in stress could be driving this downward trend in sleep, as the American Psychological Association reports a “strong connection between stress and sleep quality.”

The poll showed that 63% of Americans who reported wanting more sleep also “frequently experience stress.”

Tired woman at computer

Women are most likely to frequently experience stress, the Gallup poll found. (iStock)

“Over the past 30 years, the number of Americans who are stressed has been on a steady incline after a sharp drop in 2003,” Gallup reported.

“The most recent data show that nearly half of all Americans, 49%, report frequently experiencing stress — up 16 points over the past two decades and the highest in Gallup’s trend to date.”

IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP BY OPTIMIZING 6 BIOMARKERS: ‘INTEGRAL TO HEALTH’

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Young women are also most likely to frequently experience stress, “exceeding men their age by 14 points,” according to Gallup.

Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, confirmed this relationship between sleep and stress, calling it the “cycle of worry” during a Thursday appearance on “America’s Newsroom.”

dr. marc siegel on america's newsroom

Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, discussed the relationship between sleep and stress during a Thursday appearance on “America’s Newsroom.” He noted that exposure to the blue light of smartphone screens can keep people awake, among other issues. (Fox News)

“They’re connected,” he said. 

“If you get more stressed, you don’t sleep; if you don’t sleep, you get more stressed.”

Siegel explained that “all of this spirals out of control,” since sleeplessness is often remedied with caffeine — yet caffeine “interferes with your sleep cycle.”

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“If you get more stressed, you don’t sleep; if you don’t sleep, you get more stressed.”

The same goes for drinking alcohol before bed to induce sleep, which “wears off and you wake up in the middle of the night,” the doctor warned. 

Exposure to the blue light of smartphone screens can keep people awake, Siegel said.

WANT TO BE A MORNING PERSON? THESE 6 EXPERT TIPS MAY GET YOU THERE

“All of this is very bad for health,” he said. “It leads to heart disease, it increases your risk of stroke, it causes you to gain weight.”

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For young women in particular, several factors could be causing them to lose sleep, including the use of social media, which can “feed anxiety,” Siegel said.

Man on phone

A potential fix to ending the sleep-stress cycle is practicing “sleep hygiene,” said one doctor, which includes sleeping in a dark room away from your cellphone. (iStock)

A potential fix for the sleep-stress cycle is practicing “sleep hygiene,” Siegel suggested, which includes sleeping in a dark room away from your cell phone.

“I treat stress and sleeplessness as the same thing,” he said. “That’s why I don’t believe in sleeping pills … You’re just covering up the problem.”

He added, “I want to get at why you’re worried and what I can do about the worry.”

SLEEPING WITH LIGHTS OFF AND CLOSED BLINDS MAY PROTECT YOUR HEALTH: STUDY

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Dr. Wendy Troxel, a Utah-based sleep expert and senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation, told Fox News Digital in an interview that stress levels have remained “very high” since the COVID pandemic.

“[For] populations navigating multiple demands, including young people who are going to school or starting new jobs in this topsy-turvy world, it’s understandable that they are experiencing increases in stress, and that’s manifesting increases in sleep disturbances,” she said.

dr. wendy troxel headshot

Dr. Wendy Troxel, senior behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation, is also the author of “Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep” and scientific advisor for sleepfoundation.org. “As a culture,” she said, “we’ve become more aware of the importance of sleep over the past 10 years, which is a great thing.” (Diane Baldwin)

In some instances, Troxel pointed out, lack of sleep has been worn as a “badge of honor” to prove that people are busy or productive.

“But I think that that cultural misconception is starting to wane,” she said.

“The reality is, as a culture, we’ve just become more aware of the importance of sleep over the past 10 years, which is a great thing.”

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To break the “vicious cycle” of stress impacting sleep and vice versa, Troxel offered several tips, including maintaining a consistent sleep and wake schedule to ensure that stress doesn’t “invade your life.”

Incorporating a wind-down routine prior to bed can also bring down stress levels, the sleep expert noted.

These routines can involve relaxing activities such as deep breathing exercises, cuddling with a partner, journaling, doing gentle yoga or listening to music.

man meditates at night on his bed

Wind-down activities before bed can include deep breathing exercises, cuddling with a partner, journaling, doing gentle yoga or listening to music. (iStock)

“It’s just about finding something that you can ritualize and do on a nightly basis to set the stage … to put aside all the demands and stress of the day and prepare for winding down and [going] to sleep,” Troxel said.

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For people who wake up in the middle of the night due to stress, she advised getting out of bed, performing a wind-down activity and then returning to bed.

This technique, called stimulus control, prevents the brain from forming the habit of waking up at a certain time to ruminate on stressful thoughts.

“We all have occasional stress-related sleep disturbances, but if that starts happening night after night, it becomes habit-forming,” she said. 

“And that’s where we see more chronic problems like insomnia. So, if you see that happening, treat it as a habit that your brain is learning — and break it.”

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