WAAY 31 I-Team Investigation: Tianaa Dangers

The WAAY 31 I-Team takes an in-depth look at the dangers of Tianaa and what law enforcement and lawmakers are doing to take it off store shelves.

Posted: Mar 12, 2019 4:28 PM
Updated: Mar 17, 2019 4:39 PM

The WAAY 31 I-Team uncovered a potential addiction that might be right around the corner from your family. Even your kids could become addicted.

Across Huntsville and in other parts of Alabama, our I-Team found bottle after bottle of a product called Tianaa. Convenience stores are where users get their hands on it.

WAAY 31’s Greg Privett talked with a Huntsville woman about her struggle to reveal the dangers of Tianaa and rescue a family member.

“Where is all this money going?” She was worried sick. “How are these charges showing up at a gas station?” she wondered. “And it was sometimes two or three times a day.”

She was determined to track down the truth. “I just followed him in the gas station and that’s what he was buying.” With nowhere to turn, she became her own detective.

“He didn’t want me to see,” she said. “He didn’t want me to know what he was buying.”

What she found horrified her. “It’s addictive and it can kill.”

“He was craving the drug,” Sheila Gray told WAAY 31’s I-Team. “After a lot of intervention with other family members, he decided he needed help.”

Gray uncovered her family member was hooked on Tianaa. “The family member was buying that, because he works long hours, to give him some energy.”

Gray told us it may be labeled a dietary supplement, but Tianaa put her loved one’s life at risk. And it cost at least a thousand dollars a month.

“When I found out, of course, I cleared all the money out of the bank account, took away the car, took away the keys to the car, took away the credit card, took away the phone and just let him withdraw.”

Tianaa is everywhere in Alabama.

“We have seen a presence of Tianaa mostly around convenience stores,” Capt. Clay Hammac told the WAAY 31 I-Team. Hammac is commander of the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force. He says Tianaa is a problem in Shelby County.

Hammac wants people across Alabama to know Tianaa is dangerous.

“The more alarming ingredient in Tianaa is a synthetic drug called Tianeptine. Tianeptine is not approved for use as a prescription here in the United States by the FDA.”

He warns Tianaa affects your body much like opioids. Anyone who uses Tianaa can quickly become addicted.

“Tragically, the chemical-dependency on Tianeptine, resulting in withdrawals, are quite severe. In fact, some of the withdrawal symptoms are very similar to that of opioid withdrawals.”

WAAY 31 went into one convenience store after another. Without exception, all the stores we checked were selling Tianaa. It’s the same story across North Alabama. Inside those stores, the people buying Tianaa aren’t just adults.

Down in Shelby County, high school and college students are buying Tianaa and using it as a recreational drug. Right now in Alabama, that’s perfectly legal.

Hammac classified Tianaa as “what we would consider casual drugs that students are experimenting with that many times you do find at your local gas station.”

Hammac told WAAY 31 school resource officers often find empty Tianna bottles in school bathrooms and parking lots. Some parents find their own evidence. He pointed out one example: “Mom and dad are reviewing the credit card statement and they see an exorbitant amount of charges at a local gas station. Their daughter has been purchasing Kratom as well as, after the ban of Kratom, Tianaa.”

Tianaa showed up in Alabama after state lawmakers made the herbal supplement, Kratom, a controlled substance two years ago. Hammac showed us a collection of Kratom product bottles his task force collected. “These items were being sold right next to the cash register at many local gas stations.”

Sen. Arthur Orr sponsored the Kratom ban. That was two years ago. When Kratom-laced liquid dried up in convenience stores, Tianaa filled the void.

“We now have products like this: Tianaa,” Hammac said.

Orr told WAAY 31 manufacturers constantly skirt the law and reformulate products to slip through legal loopholes, so he’s working to make sure law enforcement can target active ingredients.

Tianaa is a huge seller. In Decatur, one convenience store told us they sell up to eighty bottles of Tianaa every day. That’s about $40 a pop for a bottle of 15 capsules.

WAAY 31 called Tianaa’s Florida-based distributor MT Lotz. They told us, “We’re not interested in making any comments.”

Tianaa’s distributor may not want to talk. But, drug officers insist parents must talk with their children about the dangers of Tianaa.

“What we want to encourage parents all over the state of Alabama is listen, moms, dads, you need to be vigilant.”

Clay Hammac says beating the addiction to Tianaa is tough. “The withdrawals can be violent: bone chills, muscle aches, GI complications.”

Sheila Gray knows the pain of those withdrawals too well. She just watched her loved one suffer through them. “And that was awful,” Gray told us. “He said it was like ants crawling up his legs. It was just like opioid withdrawals. Just like it.”

For Gray, fighting Tianaa has been maddening. “I didn’t mention anything to the people who were selling it. But, I was angry at them,” She said. “I would like the cops to raid all the gas stations and take them off the shelves. But, I understand that takes some time.”

WAAY 31 contacted the Madison Morgan County Drug Task Force. They told us Tianaa is on their radar. But, their hands are tied until they can legally target Tianaa’s active ingredient.

Huntsville/Redstone
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 57°
Muscle Shoals
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 57°
Huntsville/Madison
Clear
56° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 56°
Decatur
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 55°
Fort Payne
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 55°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 499819

Reported Deaths: 10148
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson720331403
Mobile36423741
Madison32708469
Tuscaloosa24457422
Montgomery22805523
Shelby22276219
Baldwin19935289
Lee15083161
Calhoun13963296
Morgan13801255
Etowah13419327
Marshall11460215
Houston10130264
Elmore9515190
Limestone9440139
St. Clair9057228
Cullman9000183
Lauderdale8630214
DeKalb8509175
Talladega7647165
Walker6601260
Jackson6552104
Autauga634792
Blount6256128
Colbert6010121
Coffee5261104
Dale4685107
Russell408134
Franklin400879
Covington3999107
Chilton3922104
Escambia379573
Tallapoosa3637143
Clarke344553
Chambers3434111
Dallas3428142
Pike293173
Marion288996
Lawrence286287
Winston258668
Bibb246558
Marengo245357
Geneva240670
Pickens226357
Barbour213951
Hale212969
Fayette202857
Butler201666
Henry183741
Cherokee178240
Monroe166739
Randolph165441
Washington157136
Macon147845
Crenshaw146955
Clay146254
Cleburne140341
Lamar133933
Lowndes133151
Wilcox123125
Bullock117736
Conecuh107224
Perry106427
Sumter101032
Coosa90324
Greene88932
Choctaw56123
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 783484

Reported Deaths: 11547
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby880221518
Davidson82248874
Knox46569589
Hamilton40761463
Rutherford38847388
Williamson25536204
Sumner21597320
Montgomery17563213
Out of TN1726097
Wilson16662211
Unassigned15872126
Sullivan14527275
Blount14213185
Bradley13111141
Washington12856234
Maury12284162
Sevier12182165
Putnam10671170
Madison10143232
Robertson9043121
Anderson8113158
Hamblen8097166
Greene7317145
Tipton6986103
Coffee6442115
Dickson6303106
Gibson6204141
Cumberland6141123
Carter6004155
McMinn597593
Roane595096
Bedford5848120
Loudon574566
Jefferson5729119
Lawrence558283
Monroe540691
Warren533777
Hawkins530298
Dyer5250101
Franklin477185
Fayette469373
Obion437195
Lincoln416762
Rhea416373
Cocke404696
Cheatham398744
Marshall393157
Campbell383759
Weakley380060
Giles375997
Henderson362674
Carroll349481
White340366
Hardeman339465
Macon337973
Hardin332463
Lauderdale310043
Henry301875
Marion296345
Scott289144
Wayne288830
Overton286758
Claiborne285369
McNairy269353
Hickman267941
DeKalb267651
Haywood265260
Smith258336
Grainger245246
Trousdale240122
Morgan231438
Fentress230344
Johnson217538
Chester202748
Bledsoe201410
Crockett197447
Unicoi182247
Polk179822
Cannon178930
Union174234
Grundy170530
Lake167926
Sequatchie157727
Humphreys155821
Decatur154437
Benton151339
Lewis147625
Meigs127023
Jackson125734
Stewart124825
Clay107231
Houston103932
Perry103628
Moore94716
Van Buren79820
Pickett74823
Hancock50012

Community Events