A kratom capsule unlike any other on the domestic market, ZAZA Red is a cult-like product with a terrible reputation. It contains a potent blend of kratom and another stimulant that’s illegal to possess in the U.S.
Known as a “heroin substitute” or “gas station heroin,” this unregulated drug produces opioid-like effects. It’s available online and in convenience stores, often marketed as a dietary supplement or energy boost. But it’s not the same thing as prescription drugs, and it can cause serious harm and even death.
A Kentucky man who pleaded guilty to the murder of his wife and daughter in 2013 has been sentenced to life in prison after a judge determined that he was a “drug abuser and a major contributor to the deaths.” He was given the maximum sentence under state law for second-degree murder. The conviction was not related to kratom, but it did come from an incident in which the man used a combination of a sedative and a stimulant that’s known as Zaza Red.
The kratom in a ZAZA Red pill contains alkaloid compounds that are known to be potentially dangerous. The other ingredient is tianeptine, which is a synthetic compound that’s also sold as a dietary supplement or an energy booster. Tianeptine is similar to a type of antidepressant called a tricylic, and it’s used as medicine in Europe and Latin America. However, it’s not regulated by the FDA and is sold illegally as a dietary supplement in the United States.
While tianeptine is used to treat depression and other mental health conditions, it’s also abused recreationally for its ability to produce opioid-like effects. It is commonly paired with kratom to create a powerful sedative and stimulant combination. It’s also been reported to interact with other legal highs, including phenibut and other forms of opiates.
Tianeptine has a short half-life, which means it wears off quickly. This can lead to a recurrence of symptoms, especially if it’s paired with other drugs. A user NewsNation spoke with said they spent $2,000 a month on ZEZA Red, sacrificing food to buy more pills, and experiencing opioid-like withdrawals when they quit.
Fortunately, the popularity of this dangerous product is causing some states to crack down. Kentucky has recently passed a bill to classify all products containing tianeptine as a Schedule I controlled substance, which is the same as heroin. Those selling these products under names like Tianna, Nootropic, Pegasus, and TD Red are facing jail time for possession. And, the longer someone has been taking tianeptine, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms can be. Withdrawal can begin as soon as one to two hours after the last dose, and medical professionals describe it as being worse than opioid withdrawal. The more a person takes, the higher their tolerance will become and the more difficult it will be to quit. This is a dangerous and highly addictive drug that has been linked to several cases of extreme withdrawal and even death.