A Good Drug Misused

It’s cheap. It’s legal. It’s an over-the-counter drug.

And it says on the web that you can use it to treat your opioid addiction.

In fact, the anti-diarrhea medication Imodium can be life-threatening when used in that way, reports the American College of Emergency Physicians.imodiumljpg

A report published online Friday in the organization’s Annals of Emergency Medicine said Imodium — or its key ingredient loperamide — is being abused with increasing frequency by people trying to self-treat their opioid addiction, sometimes with fatal results.

According to a news release from the emergency physicians group, national poison data reveal a 71 percent increase in calls related to intentional loperamide exposure from 2011-14.

On web-based forums, participants discuss using the medicine to self-treat opioid withdrawal (70 percent) and for its euphoric properties (25 percent), according to the study, which was led by William Eggleston of the Upstate New York Poison Center in Syracuse, N.Y.

The study chronicled two patients who treated themselves with massive doses of loperamide. Each died in spite of being treated with cardiopulmonary resuscitation, naloxone and cardiac life support.

Loperamide is safe when used as intended but extremely dangerous in high doses, Eggleston wrote.

“Our nation’s growing population of opioid-addicted patients is seeking alternative drug sources with prescription opioid medication abuse being limited by new legislation and regulations,” Eggleston said in the news release.  “Healthcare providers must be aware of increasing loperamide abuse and its under-recognized cardiac toxicity.”


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