The House Select Committee on Substance Abuse adopted a report this week that lays out the next steps for regulating the gas station drug tianeptine as well as other measures to curb substance abuse issues in North Carolina. 

Tianeptine is an antidepressant with addictive properties used as a prescription medication in 66 countries to treat anxiety and depressive disorders. Still, it’s never been approved for use in the United States. A growing number of young adults are abusing the ‘gas station’ drug for its euphoric properties similar to opioids like heroin. 

Earlier this year, several legislators said they would like to ban tianeptine from the market. The committee’s report recommends the General Assembly classify tianeptine as a Schedule II controlled substance. 

After a brief discussion, concerns arose over the need for prevention efforts in schools in addition to regulatory action. Legislators proposed monitoring bathrooms at public schools to increase substance abuse preventative efforts among teens across North Carolina. 

“I’m telling you, if we don’t start looking at prevention, then none of this is going to fix the problem that we have in North Carolina,” said Rep. Donna White, R-Johnston. “I would like for us to discuss adding mandatory monitoring in bathrooms in all of our schools. I know that’s a big ask, and I don’t know how we would do that, but I know it’s doable.”

Williams said it’s not exactly organized cartels, but rather students that offering others ‘puffs’ in school bathrooms. Others chimed in with agreement on prevention efforts, including Reps. Amber Baker, D-Forsyth, and Renée Price, D-Caswell. Price said that kids are smart and will go somewhere other than the bathroom, which is why education on substances like alcohol, pain medication, and marijuana would help. 

The committee agreed to add a sixth recommendation to the report suggesting the General Assembly consider mandating a substance prevention program to educate school students on the dangers of marijuana and other substances. They also proposed requiring all public schools to adopt policies to better monitor students in restrooms and other areas, including the appropriation of any funds necessary to facilitate those requirements.

Additional recommendations included in the report address concerns over delays in testing controlled substances at the State Crime Laboratory. They recommend providing additional funds to law enforcement agencies so that they can fund testing of controlled substances at private laboratories in an expeditious manner. 

The Committee also recommended that the General Assembly consider enacting House Bill 563, a bill to regulate the sale and distribution of hemp-derived consumable products and kratom products, which are currently widely available across North Carolina. 

The short session starts next week when lawmakers could make efforts to move forward with the recommendations provided in the new report.