LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s Legislature passed what a law enforcement official described as the U.S.’s first statewide ban on the antidepressant tianeptine sodium.
House lawmakers voted 102-6 Wednesday to classify the drug as a Schedule II controlled substance, placing it in the same highly restrictive category that cocaine, marijuana and opiates fall under.
If approved by Gov. Rick Snyder, the bill would make Michigan the first state to forbid the substance, said Michigan State Police legislative liaison Sgt. Matthew Williams. His agency flagged the issue to Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican from Grand Ledge who sponsored the bill, after a spate of gruesome overdoses related to tianeptine sodium scoured the Midland and Saginaw area in 2017.
“I can’t imagine anyone opposing making this a Schedule II drug,” Jones said. “It’s an extremely dangerous drug which has just entered the Michigan market over the last year.”
Tianeptine sodium is an atypical antidepressant that is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is marketed as a supplement or research chemical through unregulated vendors but is often abused in high doses to simulate opioid-like highs. In addition to the U.S., the drug is also unapproved in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Wednesday’s bill cleared the Senate last month and now heads to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk for approval upon a procedural Senate vote Thursday.
Williams said the proposed Schedule II designation would effectively stomp out all legal manufacture, distribution and possession of tianeptine sodium in the state. Recently the state’s Bay Area Narcotics Team deployed informants to sniff out a discreet market of tianeptine dealers who operate on Facebook, Craigslist or even door-to-door, he said.
Because the bill doesn’t rank the drug in the most-severe Schedule I, Williams said, Michigan residents could legally use the drug in the event of future FDA approval.
“This isn’t to say down the road there couldn’t be medical purpose, but it definitely should not be sold at the street level,” Williams said.
One online vendor the narcotics team stumbled upon in investigations was the Chicago-based company, NewMind. Williams said people in Midland were buying and distributing the business’s products in bulk.
Last month, Midland substance abuse recovery coach Alyssa Wood testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on how her addiction to tianeptine sodium affected her while weaning herself off heroin — a process she said was far less horrific than tianeptine withdrawal.
“I could not get out of bed, go to work, have a normal functioning day without (tianeptine sodium) in my life,” she said in the hearing. “I am convinced that (it) is the next epidemic.”