Cape Coral supports legislation to make tianeptine Schedule II drug

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Credit: Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Southwest Florida’s largest city supports state legislation against an ingredient found in some drugs that treat depression. However, some who sell this drug say it’s a safer alternative to opioids.

Cape Coral City Council supports making tianeptine a Schedule II controlled substance. Some council members worry people are abusing it, and the drug is not approved for medical use in the United States.

CEO James Morrissette of MT Brands in Cape Coral told us they’re selling products with tianeptine fast. Tianna is among brands that contain the substance and is shown to be an herbal or dietary supplement.

“It relaxes you or in some types gives you energy, but it’s not a real altering drug,” Morrissette said.

But city council and Cape Coral Police Department fear these products are addictive. They point to the ingredient tianeptine found in them.

“You’ve got bad things happening to your body just like you do with heroin withdrawal,” said Martha Rosenthal, a professor of neuroscience at FGCU.

Rosenthal compares tianeptine to kratom, a plant that grows naturally in Thailand. It’s an ingredient Morrissette’s company also has in its manufactured products.

“They both act the same way,” Morrissette said. “They both have a low propensity for addiction from what I understand. A lot of people are using them for — the majority of the statistics are from pain, anxiety, and a solid percentage of them are using it for opiate sensation.”

The FDA has not approved tianeptine or kratom for any medical use.

“You don’t know what you’re getting, and it’s not regulated,” Rosenthal said. “There might be toxins. We don’t know the purity; we don’t know the potency; and people are taking it and taking 100 times the recommended dose.”

That’s why Cape Coral City Council supports lawmakers passing legislation classifying tianeptine as a Schedule II substance — meaning it has a high potential for abuse.

The FDA reports it’s investigating whether tianeptine might be to blame for 55 deaths — none in Southwest Florida.

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