Are Opiate Addicts Taking Imodium to Get High?

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Opioid Addicts Are Using Imodium to Get High

It’s no secret that addicts will do whatever it takes to get high. Their first instincts are to ensure that. When using drugs, the body honestly believes it needs the substance abuse to survive. That’s because the brain is affected chemically while overusing.

When addicts are unable to get their drug of choice, they often rely on other things. Those who use painkillers regularly find that they can’t always get a prescription from the doctor or they can’t find a family member or loved one to share theirs.

When this happens, they turn to other options. Recently, a new study has found that opioid addicts are using anti-diarrhea meds like Imodium and other brands as an alternative. While you might be wondering how this helps with their urges, there’s one active ingredient that causes the high. Unfortunately, the over-the-counter medicine must be taken in extreme doses to achieve this high.

Imodium has an ingredient called loperamide. It’s the part of this medicine that throws our bodies into a mild constipation stage. When taken in large doses, it’s actually toxic. Even worse, it causes heart problems that can lead to death.

Called poor man’s methadone, Imodium is being used to the point that a few deaths in the last year and a half have been reported, in addition to several life-threatening heart conditions.

According to, “A report published online in Annals of Emergency Medicine recently described two deaths in New York after loperamide abuse. And overdoses have been linked to deaths or life-threatening irregular heartbeats in at least a dozen other cases in five states in the last 18 months. Most physicians just recently realized loperamide could be abused, and few look for it. There is little if any national data on the problem, but many toxicologists and emergency department doctors suspect that it is more widespread than scattered reports suggest.”

Doctors are beginning to limit prescriptions of opioids, as they’re concerned about the growing addiction linked directly to these painkillers. It’s a serious problem that many are becoming aware of. The theory behind limiting the prescriptions is that without access to the drugs, addicts will stop taking them. Unfortunately, this is causing the problem with OTC medications like Imodium. Just as one with a drinking problem will turn to mouthwash for their buzz when beer or liquor isn’t an option, this is becoming a real issue. From here, it’s only going to intensify.

drug rehab AshevilleAccording to William Eggleston, the lead author of the recent report and a clinical toxicologist at SUNY Upstate Medical Center, “We’ve seen patients who have been on loperamide for months at a time. A subset of patients take it to get high, and other patients use it as a bridge.”

The latter of this statement is what’s caused the medicine to be named poor man’s methadone. Just as the narcotic is used to treat withdrawal symptoms and help addicts wean off more potent drugs like morphine or heroin, Imodium is easing the symptoms of detox.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is currently involved in this growing problem and aware of what’s going on. They’ve been notified that there has been misuse going on with the OTC med. They plan to take action as soon as they’re able to completely understand the situation and come up with a plan to regulate this issue.

However, that doesn’t stop the problem and, in the interim, people are still taking a huge risk of overdosing themselves on the medication. For example, some addicts are taking up to 200 milligrams of Imodium each day. The suggested maximum dose is eight milligrams. As you can see, the amount being taken is far beyond the recommended max dose.

There have been several cases of overdosing reported recently that includes the following:

  • A 24 year old male took more than 25 times the suggested dose to help with opiate withdrawal symptoms. As a result, he died.
  • A 28 year old female who was using more than 400 milligrams of the drug each day for months had an electrocardiogram that showed irregular heartbeats and abnormal electrical conduction at dangerous levels. She also experienced blackouts that were at the time, unexplained. When she ended up in the hospital, she stopped taking it. Then, her heart rate became normal and her blackouts subsided.
  • A 39 year old male died after trying to curb his opioid addiction with anti-diarrhea drugs. He was using the OTC as a way to wean himself off of the prescription medication he was addicted to.

What’s even more worrisome is that before 1998, the active ingredient in anti-diarrhea medicine, loperamide, was classified as a controlled substance. Even more, it was in the same class as methadone and cocaine. This means that while the OTC dose is quite minimal and not at all harmful or addictive, using it in large doses can be compared to using cocaine.

It’s also a medicine that can be purchased in large doses for very little money. Discount stores like Costco and Sam’s Club sell 400 count quantities for less than $10.

Dr. Chuck O’Connell, an emergency medicine physician and toxicologist at the University of California San Diego, states that “It’s time for someone to step in and regulate the purchasing of massive quantities. The average person doesn’t need 400 tablets of loperamide weekly. I’ve used a handful in my whole life.”

Those that are using this medication for the wrong reasons are putting their life at risk. if you or someone you know seems to be addicted to any type of over-the-counter medication, consider seeking help.

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