In a recent study published in The Annals of Emergency Medicine, researchers in New York reported that people addicted to opioids are using loperamide, a drug commonly used to treat diarrhea, to manage withdrawal symptoms from their addiction, or just to get high.
The study describes two cases of people who died from loperamide abuse. The researchers claim that these people were trying to ease their withdrawal symptoms, but it became a problem. Both had histories of previous substance abuse, overdosed on the new drug that they thought it was helping them with their opioid dependency, and died at a hospital after getting CPR, naloxone and other treatments.
The Upstate New York Poison Center says they have had a seven-fold increase between 2011 and 2015 in loperamide abuse-related calls. The researchers report that, also, in 2010 and 2011 there was a large increase, of about 70 percent, of posts on the Internet about the drug, but mostly all posts are related to easing opioid withdrawal symptoms. Some people say on their posts that they consider loperamide safer than opioids.
According to Dr. William Eggleston, a researcher at the Upstate New York Poison Center, Americans are trying to find solutions to their addictions, as well as seeking an alternative to prescription drugs, since opioid medication is being limited by a new legislation and regulations. The doctor added that loperamide abuse causes cardiac toxicity, which means that even drugs that are sold without a prescription can be dangerous when it is not used following doctor’s directions.
Loperamide is the active ingredient in Imodium, a Johnson & Johnson medication used to decrease the frequency of diarrhea. But asides from its regular use, some people have reported that when it is taken in large quantities, it can produce feelings of euphoria, since it activates some of the same receptors as opioids, which is why people with opioid dependency have been using it to treat themselves in the absence of the drug.
When people take the dose that is recommended by the doctor, just to treat diarrhea, it does not cause other symptoms. But when people use higher doses, the drug can help ease symptoms of withdrawal from opioids. And with higher doses, it causes a similar effect to opioids or heroin abuse.
Imodium can be purchased without a prescription, and it can be found as a liquid or pill.
Source: The Annals of Emergency Medicine