Ohio mother says tianeptine, or 'gas station heroin,' killed her son, lobbies for ban

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Friday, March 1, 2024
Mom says tianeptine, or 'gas station heroin,' killed her son, lobbies for ban
An Ohio mother is lobbying for a nationwide ban on tianeptine, known as 'gas station heroin,' after her son died from tianeptine toxicity and other conditions.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An Ohio mother is lobbying for a nationwide ban on tianeptine, known as "gas station heroin," after she said it killed her son.

Tianeptine doesn't actually contain heroin, and is often sold as a dietary supplement in gas stations, convenience stores, smoke shops and online. It can produce an opioid-like high, and has been linked to overdoses and some deaths.

Ohio man Chris Haggarty died in November 2023 at the age of 37. Toxicology results led to an official finding that he died from the toxic effects of tianeptine and other significant conditions.

His mother Karen Haggarty said her son bought a bottle containing tianeptine at a gas station.

"I miss him dearly," said Haggarty who describe the dreaded call she got about her son on Nov. 5. "$15 a bottle. How many people bought it besides my son? It was for sale at the gas station just right next to the lottery tickets and the cigarettes."

READ MORE: Tianeptine, known as 'gas station heroin,' is easy to find, potentially dangerous to use

According to Haggarty and her attorney, the elixir with tianeptine was bought at a neighborhood gas station near her son's home in Ohio. They said the business was selling products that had been banned by state law.

Jordan Lebovitz, an attorney with Nurenberg Paris Injury Lawyers, is now investigating for possible legal action.

"What is scary is the unknown of how many others throughout not just the state of Ohio but elsewhere may have also had a severe impact or death as a result of this product," he said. "And the medical examiner, the coroner, the medical evaluators in their county or their state may not have had the information necessary to search for that."

Lorain County Coroner Dr. Frank Miller told the I-Team the amount of tianeptine in Chris Haggarty's body was at a substantial level.

"People need to be conscious and careful of what products they're using and putting in their bodies. And the fact that you can buy it without a prescription or just at the corner store does not mean it's safe and that's true of a lot of things but especially tianeptine," said Miller.

Karen Haggarty wants regulators to ban all tianeptine products across the country.

"I think what should happen at this point is every gas station on every corner should be monitored and investigated to see what's in stock and what they're selling on their shelves. Please let's help other families to avoid going through what I'm going through right now. Please, get it banned in your state. Let's get it banned in every state everywhere," she pleaded.

Some states-including Ohio and Indiana have banned tianeptine. There is new legislation in the Illinois General Assembly and some members of congress are now pressing the FDA to initiate a federal reclassification of tianeptine as a drug.

The I-Team has received no response from the company that made the product Chris Haggerty took, or anyone involved with the gas station where he bought it.