How does a major nootropic vendor fall?

The death of customer might do it.

In 2015, 28-year-old Colby Patrick Brennan received his first pack of tianeptine from Powder City in his home in Harris, Texas. Later that day, he was declared dead. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences determined that the cause of death was tianeptine toxicity.

Colby’s parents filed a lawsuit against Powder City for including inadequate instructions on the packaging. The Tianeptine allegedly arrived without any warning labels and included “entirely inadequate instructions,” according to the SE Texas Record. For this reason, Charles and Mary Brennan made the case that Powder City ought to be held accountable for the death of their son.

Tianeptine is an antidepressant that can mimic the effects of opioids at high doses. It has been used intentionally as a means to suicide before, as have true opioids. The intentions of Colby Brennan cannot be verified, however. The case was made that he tried to take an appropriate dose and merely misread the label. Powder City LLC, at the very least, left themselves open to a legal crisis by not being clearer about the potential dangers of tianeptine on their packaging.

How clear do warnings and dosage instructions need to be? Do vendors need to be as achingly explicit as the peanut-packaging companies who print “may contain nuts” on their airline snack products?

Close-up of the label on a bottle of tianeptine. This is likely to be similar to
the label Colby was presented with. Are these instructions enough?

Let us know it the comments if you think the label above is sufficient, or if there is room for improvement. As a vendor of nootropics ourselves, we care about this!

As for Powder City, the lawsuit was financially overwhelming and they closed up shop in fall of 2017, along with each powder city employee. Much of the nootropic scene lamented this event because there are few other places one can go, even online, to find such a wide selection of products for such a competitive price.

The domain and the trademark were sold, and finally we saw a Powder City LLC reopening under its new owners. However, it seems the many products on PowderCity.com now point to various affiliate sites who offer affiliate disclosure. Powder City LLC used to maintain very low prices in comparison to the rest of the market by ordering large bulk orders of their product at once and shipping them from in-house. The model currently running (with pages simply pointing to other vendors), is much more hands-off and cannot promise the same cost advantages.

Is Tianeptine a Dangerous Drug?

If this lawsuit was onto something, what’s the problem with tianeptine? Is it dangerous? The answer depends on whether you treat it with the same respect you treat Paracetamol.

Paracetamol is the most commonly sold treatment for pain and general flu symptoms the world over. However, that doesn’t mean it’s completely safe. Far from it. For adults, the minimum acute hepatotoxic (liver-damaging) dose is 7.5g. The average Paracetamol tablet contains 500mg of the active drug, meaning that 15 tablets is considered a potentially lethal dose.

Tianeptine is not as well-studied as Paracetamol, so we don’t have as much data on its toxicity. Anecdotal evidence certainly suggests that it is possible to overdose on it, but only at much greater multiples of the recommended dose as Paracetamol. There are some that analyze the affects of Alpha GPC vs CDP Choline.

On the forum Blue Light, one user posted a cautionary tale. In an attempt to battle an opioid addiction, he routinely took tianeptine at doses high enough to produce an opioid-like effect. One day he took two intravenous shots of approximately the same high levels in one day. He woke up on a stretcher. He had collapsed onto the floor, stopped breathing and stopped producing a pulse. Thankfully, his family found him quickly and paramedics were able to revive him.

His regular dosage was 300mg-400mg (24-32 times the recommended daily dose of 12.5mg). Although he doesn’t specify the exact dose he took on the day he collapsed (“several hundred milligrams” + 300mg), we can assume that together was at least 50 times the recommended dose.

In another case, a 26-year-old used tianeptine to successfully commit suicide. He was found dead on his bed next to a suicide note. His post-mortem toxicology results showed 5.1mg/mL of tianeptine and 530mg/mL of alcohol in the blood. More than 300mg/dL of alcohol is considered potentially fatal, so it’s not clear which substance did more damage. According to the report, “the toxicological analysis led the pathologist to rule that death was due to an intoxication caused by the suicidal ingestion of tianeptine in combination with alcohol.”

Having said all that, don’t be scared to try tianeptine if you are in the market for an antidepressant. Taken responsibly at the recommended dose it is very safe. It produces as much of an effect as other antidepressants (such as imipramine, amitriptyline and fluoxetine) with far fewer negative side-effects. It is very effective against chronic anxiety and panic attacks. It has also been proven to be effective in treating Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. Be aware, however, that it is an addictive substance. If you are considering it, consult your medical practitioner and perhaps a clued-in psychotherapist for advice.

Is Tianeptine Legal? – According to the Food and Drug Administration

Tianeptine has been approved for sale in many countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia, but is no longer approved in the USA. The North American patent expired and it’s not commercially viable to invest in the litany of clinical trials necessary to renew its US product license. Even after approval by the food and drug administration, tianeptine can only be sold as a cheap commodity due to generic competitors. For this reason, it needs to be sourced from outside of the United States for the food and drug administration.

Tianeptine from Powder City

What else did Powder City sell?

Powder City offered a high variety of drugs, cognitive enhancers & dietary supplements besides antidepressants. They offered cognitive enhancers of function, energy, and even build muscle growth and fitness. Their total list of products reached 299 items, although some of those include the ‘paraphernalia’ of supplementation such as measuring equipment.

Top Sellers
Adrafinil: a compound that the body metabolizes into modafinil after ingestion.
Coluracetam: a nootropic that improves mood while sharpening memory.
Cardarine: an athletic supplement that enhances fat loss while increasing endurance.
Methylene Blue: benefits mitochondria and enhances energy formation in the cells.
Noopept: a strong ‘racetam’ with profound effects on cognition.
Phenibut HCL: increases mood, sociability, and relaxation.
Phenylpiracetam: enhances memory, problem-solving and physical performance while reducing anxiety.
Pramiracetam: boosts memory, focus, and learning capacity.
Tianeptine: the antidepressant that got them in so much trouble!

Energy Enhancement

Energy boosting drugs and dietary supplements are very popular among bodybuilders and athletes who need that extra kick to get them through a competitive exercise routine. Powder City LLC list 64 items under this category, the most notable being Focus3D, a proprietary formula that Powder City owned. It contains TeaCrine, L-Theanine, Dicaffeine malate and Caffeine Citrate.

According to the product page, the Focus3D formula was developed by gaming enthusiasts that wanted a long-lasting yet intense energy boost. In addition to the intense stimulant effect created by the various different kinds of caffeine, the theanine in this cocktail quells anxiety and reduces the jittery nerves typically felt by people on caffeine.

Mood Enhancement

Other than tianeptine, Powder City LLC sells about 57 other products related to improving your mood as well as dietary supplements. For the chronically stressed, for example, Tongkat Ali could be a solution. Found in a plant native to Southeast Asia, Tongkat Ali has been used in herbal remedies for many generations. Not only does it improve your mood, but it also boosts your levels of testosterone for sexual health. It is also used to treat symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

Serotonin, a crucial neurochemical in the production of feelings of pride and self-worth, is produced in the body with the naturally occurring amino acid 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). Product City sells a number of 5-HTP products. All promote positive moods and reduction of anxiety.

Building Muscle

Amongst 36 products under “Muscle Growth” the three most popular are Agmatine Sulfate Powder, D-Aspartic Acid, and Creatine Monohydrate Powder.

Agmatine Sulfate is a natural compound synthesised by the amino acid Arginine to help build muscle. By supplementing it in powder form, you can speed up its benefits, which include reducing post-workout pain as well as decrease the time it takes for your muscles to recover.

D-Aspartic Acid is also an amino acid, though it has a very different job. It regulates testosterone production and can help with sexual health. Taking it as a supplement elevates testosterone levels for about a week to 10 days. This makes it popular for athletes in the week leading up to an event where they need to perform at their peak, or build muscle.

Creatine is a highly studied supplement and is used widely by strength athletes, in part due to its broad effects on performance. Not only does it increase muscular strength, but it also enhances the regrowth of muscle tissue, reducing recovery time. In the body, creatine is used in the energy system in the form creatine phosphate. It triggers the production of cellular energy to enhance function and repair.

Sleep

Powder City lists 13 products under “sleep quality”, which includes some relaxing supplements and drugs that we have already covered such as L-theanine and 5-HTP. One we haven’t mentioned is melatonin – a naturally occurring hormone that helps our bodies regulate our circadian rhythm. There is also evidence that it is used in short-term memory and improves mood in cases of seasonal affective disorder. However, it’s best not to take this supplement at any time other than soon before bed unless you want to dysregulate your body clock.

Criticism and Reputation

Before the case of Colby Brennan, Powder City in York PA had a relatively good reputation in the nootropic scene. They were known for their amazingly wide variety of products and competitive prices. A few complaints of service quality still circulated, but it’s hard not to have any of those at all.

They have been accused of having biased reviews. They appeared reluctant at the very least to post bad reviews on their website. However, one customer said that after trying to post a negative review, their customer support team reached out to offer a refund. That might be a way to appease that one customer, but perhaps it was short-sighted to only select positive reviews. Other users had problems with shipping, just as the “free shipping” option taking far too long to arrive.

Testing Quality

According to their About page, Powder City used a 3rd party to test their products. After they got the results back, they would run the product through additional tests. These would include high-performance liquid chromatography, a method used to make sure a product is pure and uncontaminated.

They claimed to be very thorough, taking samples from every barrel of product that they received to test. This does not completely eliminate the potential for the contaminated product, but it greatly reduces the risk. It’s the most we can ask of a company, as the process of testing a sample renders it useless to the consumer. As long as they test one sample from every barrel, they could be reasonably sure the rest of the barrel’s contents were in a similar condition.

Competitive Pricing

Powder City York PA was the IKEA of nootropics. A huge range, and unbeatable prices. The rest of the market couldn’t keep up. For example, 5g of Noopept powder cost $6.99 at Powder City. The next cheapest price was $7.99 from Nootropics Depot, and it only went up from there to $9.80 from New Star Nootropics and $11.99 from New Mind. The price difference, of course, becomes even more pronounced when you buy in larger batches, as many nootropic enthusiasts do.

Other examples include L-theanine, which Powder City sold in 30-count bottles for only $4.97 each. Other vendors retailed the same quantity of L-theanine at somewhere from $7.99 to $25.95. Their ALCAR capsules, too, sold far below the market average of about $20 at a mere $8.99.

It’s no wonder there was a small panic in the nootropic community when Powder City shut down their operations.

Reaction to Powder City’s Closure

At the time of their closure, many Reddit (which has a very active nootropic user base in the subreddit: /r/Nootropics) users jumped to the defence of Powder City.

One user wrote:
“I don’t usually post on reddit, but I just want to say thank you to Powder City for being an amazing vendor and I’m sure many of us will miss you. They have the cheapest nootropics and they introduced me to some valuable and helpful nootropics including tianeptine.”

Another posted:
“Very sad to see you go! best of luck!”

There were many other similar comments underneath all the threads announcing the lawsuit Powder City fought or their subsequent closure.

Their absence has opened up a gap in the market. As another Reddit user wrote:
“I cannot find a good alternative to powder city”

They appeared to run on slim margins, which they made profitable by bringing popular products in-house in huge quantities before selling on Amazon or to the consumer through their website. The gap they’re leaving in the nootropic market represents a significant opportunity for any large nootropic vendors out there.

Conclusion

Powder City York PA, once one of the most successful nootropic vendors on the entire internet, has been tragically reduced to rubble by a lawsuit over negligent labeling. They could have been clearer about what constitutes the recommended daily dose, as well as made a greater effort to warn consumers of the potential dangers. Even still, it’s a shame to see such a huge source of nootropics and other performance supplementation (that so many people relied on) go under due to one lawsuit.

One thing is for sure – Powder City’s absence is felt in the nootropic community, and it remains to be seen what will step up to fill the gap.

Lastly, if you want to try tianeptine, don’t be scared off by the story of Colby Brennan. We don’t know how much he took, but judging by other cases of tianeptine toxicity, it must have been far above the recommended dose of 12.5mg.

Be informed, stay safe, and bring any concerns to your medical practitioner before taking any risks.

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