Tuscaloosa police warn of drug overdoses at gas station
The Tuscaloosa Police Department is warning residents after some people experience drug overdoses using products purchased from convenience and tobacco stores.
This drug is just the latest in a long line of products that lawmakers in Alabama are playing with: As soon as they ban a product, a small ingredient change puts it back on store shelves.
Lieutenant Craig Parker is a mental health officer for the Tuscaloosa Police Department. He said he hoped something could be done to stop these manufacturers from producing products that evade legality and make people sick.
“The state of Alabama has banned this specific drug,” Parker said. “What has happened since then is that chemists have tweaked this formula slightly and are now reselling it as a legal substance in gas stations, tobacco shops, different things like that under the names of Phrenzie Red and Phrenzie White. ”
The products are marketed as herbal supplements and use an active ingredient marketed online as a legal equivalent of tianeptine, which is used as an antidepressant in other countries and in high doses mimics the effects of opioids.
Package labels suggest that users consult their doctor before taking the supplement and follow dosage instructions carefully, but Parker said most people ignore this advice.
“This tianeptine affects the opioid receptors in the brain and acts as a synthetic opioid and leads to psychosis and acute psychiatric distress,” Parker said. “We’ve had overdoses on it, completely delusional. We’ve had naked people on the streets fighting cars and things like that.
WVUA 23 checked several local convenience stores and found none that sold the supplements. In fact, a store owner told us that he refused to transport any of these products. This is good news for Parker and the rest of law enforcement.
“When you buy your herbal supplements at a gas station, you aren’t necessarily looking for the herbal remedy effect,” Parker said. “You’re looking for the cheap high, the illegal high, and that’s what people get. The problem is, they take so much of it that it leads to acute overdose distress in overdose-like situations.
Parker said the only way to eliminate this problem is for lawmakers to make the entire class of opioids used in these products illegal for the over-the-counter sale.