WAAY 31 I-Team Follow-up: Feds warn about Tianaa in the Tennessee Valley

The WAAY 31 I-Team follows-up with new details about Tianaa and what might come next for the controversial product.

Posted: Apr 1, 2019 6:19 PM
Updated: May 4, 2021 11:55 AM

After overwhelming response to our first WAAY 31 I-Team investigation, we’re digging deeper into the dangers of Tianaa.

We have new information about how the controversial dietary supplement is affecting people here in the Tennessee Valley and a warning from multiple federal regulators.

In our first I-Team report, we showed you how Tianaa affected a Huntsville family: draining their bank account and hurting a loved one’s health.

“He was craving the drug,” Sheila Gray told WAAY 31. “After a lot of intervention with other family members, he decided he needed help.”

After that, WAAY 31 viewers knew they weren’t alone. They came forward talking about their own Tianaa troubles.

“Never heard of it,” a woman who wants to remain anonymous told us. “It was just a new thing there at the gas station.”

She told us Tianaa put her husband in the hospital after he suffered a seizure at work. “He just dropped to the floor and convulsed so bad that his shoes came off,” she told WAAY 31. “He bit his tongue nearly off and they had to call an ambulance to come get him.”

The worried wife insists Tianaa nearly killed her husband who was hooked and put their money in convenience store cash registers.

“We’ve pretty much lost everything,” she explained. “Lost jobs, lost the ability to get by from day to day at times. It’s hurt the relationship because of the lies, because of not wanting to admit what they’re taking.”

Scared to death of Tianaa, she reached out to the Food and Drug Administration. “When I realized how big of a problem it was, the lies and everything, that was when I started reaching out to the FDA.”

WAAY 31 contacted the FDA for this report. We wanted to know more about Tianaa’s active ingredient, tianeptine.

The FDA had this serious warning: “… Tianeptine is an unsafe food additive and should not be present in dietary supplements. The FDA has not approved Tianeptine for any use. Consumers may inadvertently find themselves addicted to Tianeptine and should avoid all products containing Tianeptine… “

Our first I-Team report also caught the attention of Lance Dyer.

“On March 10th, 2012, we lost our 14-year-old son,” Dyer told WAAY 31. Choking back tears, he said, “It was a drug-induced suicide. He had ingested a synthetic cannabinoid and it took its toll on him.”

Since losing his son, Dakota, the grieving dad’s personal crusade is fighting synthetic drugs. Dyer speaks at schools to warn students.

“We call these people that sell, manufacture and distribute this stuff, merchants of death and narco-terrorists. That’s exactly what they do.”

Potentially lethal, but legal. Convenience stores are a major source for synthetic drugs. WAAY 31 contacted several big oil companies to see if they’re okay with their dealers selling products like Tianaa. Chevron, which owns Texaco, told us its agreements make it clear stations must comply with all federal and state laws.

“What’s in this product is heavy metals, bug parts, animal and human feces and just about any type of mind-altering drug they can throw in there,” Dyer explained.

He wants lawmakers to ban tianeptine in Tianaa and similar products like Za Za.

“I’ve heard horror stories. It’s on the same caliber as an extreme meth user,” Dyer said. “They will spend every dime they’ve got. They will steal, beg, borrow and steal to go buy this.”

As WAAY 31 keeps uncovering more about Tianaa, we found Dyer’s claim is backed up by this warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Clinical effects of Tianeptine abuse and withdrawal can mimic opioid toxicity and withdrawal.”

“It’s like playing a game of Whack-a-Mole,” Dyer said. “Every time you hit one, another one pops up.”

Woman - “Basically, just ultimatum. He had no choice. And not giving him access remotely that ever give him access to get it, which meant money.”

Her husband got off Tianaa when she threatened to leave. Now, she wants a legal ultimatum for the people selling it. “I want it gone. I want it taken off the shelves.” “Bottom line, it’s still addictive. It’s still pretty much killing people. It’s got to be.”

WAAY 31 also learned the state health department said no to Alabama Senator Arthur Orr’s request to list tianeptine as a controlled substance. We wanted to understand why. The health department told WAAY 31 there’s not enough research available to address any possible abuse. It’s unclear if they are aware of the warnings from the FDA and CDC. But, the state health department says it’s watching Tianaa and other tianeptine-based products.

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