Drug addiction is a global concern. When one addiction is suppressed, another form of addiction emerges. Opioid addicts who cannot get their hands on painkillers turn to Imodium to get their fix.

Due to stringent measure imposed by the government, some individuals turn to Imodium to satisfy their addiction. Others take the over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drug to self-treat their opioid addiction.

But experts warn that taking Imodium more than the recommended dosage can be harmful or even fatal.

In a report published by Dr. William Eggleston in Annals of Emergency Medicine, two deaths were said to be due to irregular heartbeats caused by loperamide abuse. Although there are few national data on the abuse, doctors believe that the problem is more widespread than what is known.

What Is Imodium?

Imodium is the brand name of loperamide hydrochloride, a drug used to treat sudden episodes of diarrhea.

Loperamide, its main ingredient, acts on the opioid agonist activity in the gastrointestinal tract to reduce bowel movements. Because of this effect on the opioid receptors, the drug was previously a controlled substance and a prescription drug.

In 1976, the Food and Drug Association approved to change its classification to an over-the-counter medication; and by 1988, it has become a non-prescription drug sold as Imodium.

Since then, it has become a poor man's methadone.

Side Effects Of Imodium

Low dose Imodium does not cause any side effects. But when taken in high doses, Imodium can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation and drowsiness.

Before, Imodium drops were available for treatment of diarrhea in children. It was, however, withdrawn from the market by Johnson & Johnson after it was reported to cause paralytic ileus.

One study has shown that long-term high-dose intake of loperamide causes irregular heartbeats and poor cardiac conduction. There was a notable improvement in heart functions when loperamide was removed from the system.

Deadly Dose Of Imodium

Standard dose of loperamide should only be four caplets or 8 milligrams daily. When taken in recommended doses, loperamide cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and has poor bioavailability (0.3 percent), so it would not cause any central nervous system opioid effects.

Anti-diarrhea medications, such as Imodium, are cheap and can easily be bought in large quantities. Some individuals take large doses of Imodium to get high, while others use the drug to ease their way out of the addiction.

It is true that doctors prescribe loperamide to help their patients manage symptoms of withdrawal, but some choose to self-treat and ingest 100 two-milligram capsules daily for several weeks — a practice that calls for immediate action.

With the growing number of loperamide abusers, calls for review about its classification and regulation are being sought. Doctors are also asked to be more vigilant because loperamide abuse is not routinely done in emergency departments.

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