Depression is a severe problem that affects our society as a whole, and it is estimated that worldwide, 300 million people struggle with the disorder. A stigma has been attached to the disorder for decades, and those who deal with the worst of its effects seldom get the help they need. In some cases, however, depression is debilitating and can leave a person bedridden and feeling that they lack a purpose in their lives.
The problem with depression is how painful it can be, and those who have never experienced it cannot empathize. It’s possible you’ve heard “just get over it; mind over matter; and it’s all in your head” when someone is trying to talk you out of depression, but it’s not that simple. It is a chemical imbalance in your brain that causes this, and for some, medication is required to treat.
Depression does not discriminate your socioeconomic background, and all walks of life can develop the disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines a major depressive episode as at least two weeks of a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities.
There are significant sleep issues virtually on a daily basis from either sleeping too much or too little, changes in appetite, decrease energy, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, psychomotor agitation, or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. The symptoms must cause distress or impairments in an individual’s quality of life. There is no single cause of depression, but genetics and life experiences can play a significant role.
The medications that are used to treat disorders like depression, anxiety, or any social disorder, can cause adverse effects and create additional problems in their lives. Unfortunately, while tianeptine is designed to treat the battle with depression, it has a high likelihood of causing addiction. People who have used the drug advise those who are addicted to opioids not to start using tianeptine because of how intense the withdrawal effects are. With that said, let’s delve into the facts and learn more about this drug.
What is Tianeptine?
Tianeptine, sold abroad under the brand names Stablon and Coaxil among others, is an unapproved antidepressant medication that is becoming widespread in the United States. WebMD suggests opioid users are turning to the drug to treat depression or as an alternative to opioid use. With opiate production slowing down and doctors becoming severely restricted in the amounts they can prescribe, it has pushed the users to turn to street drugs like heroin or fentanyl or seek other alternatives in the form of unapproved drugs.
Tianeptine is used in some European, Asian, and Latin American countries for the treatment of depression and anxiety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of the drug in the United States according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even with the restriction in place, the U.S. poison control centers have received a multitude of calls related to tianeptine. The report highlights 207 calls to poison control centers within the past four years, with just 14 in the years prior.
Tianeptine is classified as an atypical antidepressant, which is used mainly in the treatment of major depressive disorder. It can also be used to treat asthma, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome. The drug produces anxiolytic effects with a relative lack of sedative, anticholinergic, and cardiovascular side effects. The substance was discovered and patented by the French Society of Medical Research in the 1960s.
When Used In Heavy Doses, Tianeptine is Reported to Produce Opioid-Like Recreational Effects Such As:
- Physical euphoria
- Muscle relaxation
- Physical fatigue
- Motivation enhancement
- Anxiety suppression
- Cognitive euphoria
- Focus enhancement
- Thought acceleration
The chronic use of the drug can be considered addictive and is capable of causing physical and psychological dependence. When physical dependence develops, withdrawal symptoms may occur if a person suddenly stops their usage. Tolerance to the effects can develop with prolonged use, including therapeutic effects. It results in users having to administer increasingly large doses to achieve the same impact, and after that, it takes three to seven days for the tolerance to be reduced to half, and one to two weeks to be back at baseline.
The Most Common Adverse Effects of Tianeptine Include:
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in dreams
Studies indicate that the dose should be decreased in elderly patients and those who have severe renal failure, but an adjustment is not necessary for those with alcoholism or hepatic impairment or those undergoing hemodialysis.
As mentioned earlier, tianeptine withdrawal can be intense for some people who stop using the drug. The severity of withdrawal symptoms experienced will vary according to the person and their situation. Per Mental Health Daily, tianeptine withdrawal symptoms include:
Allergy-like symptoms: These include a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, dry or scratchy throat that can occur during withdrawal.
Appetite loss: Some people who stop using the drug may not feel up to eating and experience bloating, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms. People with low appetite are encouraged to eat nutrient-rich foods to avoid deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.
Body aches: Stopping use of the medication can increase inflammation and raise stress hormone levels. Dehydration and muscle tension can also increase pain.
Brain fog: Some people who stop tianeptine use may feel like they aren’t able to think clearly or concentrate. They may not feel up to their usual selves either.
Anxiety: If a person uses tianeptine for anxiety and then stops using it, it could make their anxiety worse. This is called rebound anxiety. The drug relaxes people as it depresses the central nervous system. But when the drug isn’t in the body after longtime use, stress levels can go up due to an increase in stress hormones and stimulatory brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Depression: Changes in neurotransmitters can bring on symptoms of depression. People who experience this in tianeptine withdrawal will find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep, and they may feel more anxiety, as noted above.
Other tianeptine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Sped-up heart rate
- Heart palpitations
- Cravings for tianeptine
- Suicidal thoughts
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, get help right away by calling 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
How Long Does Tianeptine Withdrawal Last?
Your timeline for tianeptine withdrawal depends on various factors, including how long you’ve used it, how you used it, how big your last dose was, your physical and mental health, your age, weight, and whether you used it with other drugs or alcohol. There are many factors to consider that will shape your timeline, including your lifestyle and substance use history. Even the manner in which you withdraw from using it will affect your withdrawal experience.
Quitting the drug suddenly without giving the body time to adjust to the drug’s absence is highly discouraged. With a short half-life, anyone who quits tianeptine can expect withdrawal symptoms to happen soon after. Gradually reducing one’s dosage happens during a tapering process, which can be done during a professional-administered medical detox. A long-term taper is ideal for ending tianeptine use. A doctor can advise you on what that timetable would look like for you or your loved one.
According to Mental Health Daily, the strongest symptoms unfold over the first 72 hours (three days) of withdrawal. Symptoms could remain over the first 14 days, which is two weeks. The worst of symptoms should ease by the third week of withdrawal.
People who want to know how to get off tianeptine should consider getting professional medical help. Medically monitored tianeptine detox that takes place at an addiction treatment facility is the safest option. This ensures a patient’s needs are considered. It also ensures they get the support they need should a medical emergency arise.
During tianeptine detox, you could receive medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms and aid your recovery period. After your detox period ends, addiction treatment professionals will update you on your progress and advise you on your next steps.
Treatment Options for Tianeptine Addiction
Therapeutic doses of the drug are typically safe for most, but some individuals are at increased risk of abusing the drug. Some individuals who struggle with tianeptine abuse report taking as much as 1 gram per day, which is well above the starting dose of 25 mg (milligrams). Due to withdrawal symptoms being as unbearable as opioid withdrawal, it will be difficult to overcome the drug without medical supervision.
There is no recognized use of the drug in the United States, and it is not as commonly abused; however, with the rise of its popularity and increased regulations around opioids, many individuals can begin to abuse it by purchasing it online where it is marked as a dietary supplement. Consuming drugs without medical supervision is strongly advised against and never recommended for any pharmaceutical drug.
While abuse numbers are still low in the U.S. currently, clinicians always suggest that medical detoxification is the most efficient way to get off tianeptine. Since the medication functions similar to opiates, drugs such as buprenorphine can be administered to cope with the withdrawal symptoms. Medical professionals can evaluate the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and determine what the best course of action is.
Once detox has been completed, the client should be referred to a treatment center, which will provide evidence-based group and individual therapy to change compulsive behaviors around drugs. The process has been highly successful for those who struggle with opioid addiction and can extend to tianeptine abuse as well.
If you’ve fallen victim to addiction while trying to treat your depression, it is time that you reach out and get help. Ocean Breeze recovery can diagnose and treat your depression in a way that will not fuel your drug addiction.