Addicts Take Diarrhea Drug Imodium to Get High

In their search for alternatives to opioid painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin, addicts are turning to the over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drug Imodium to get their fix.

In their search for alternatives to opioid painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin, addicts are turning to the over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drug Imodium to get their fix.

Researchers have found that Imodium’s key ingredient, loperamide, is the culprit feeding addicts’ high.

The study highlighted two case studies of patients with histories of substance abuse who also attempted to handle their opioid addictions with large doses of loperamide.

Both patients overdosed and were treated with cardiopulmonary resuscitation, naloxone, and standard Advanced Cardiac Life Support.

Despite emergency treatment, both patients died.

Reports on web-based forums have shown a 10-fold increase in oral loperamide abuse between 2010 and 2011. Approximately 70% of forum users discussed using the drug to self-treat opioid withdrawal. On the other hand, 25% reported using loperamide for its “euphoric properties.”

“Loperamide’s accessibility, low cost, over-the-counter legal status, and lack of social stigma all contribute to its potential for abuse. People looking for either self-treatment of [opioid] withdrawal symptoms or euphoria are overdosing on loperamide with sometimes deadly consequences,” William Eggleston, PharmD, Upstate New York Poison Center, Syracuse, NY, said.

While loperamide is safe in therapeutic doses, consumption of high doses could result in fatal outcomes.

Eggleston suggested that as regulators and officials work to tighten access to prescription opioid painkillers, they shouldn’t forget about these “alternative drug sources.”