We always try to keep an eye on stories that touch upon new forms of addictions. And one of the latest concerns an unusual over-the-counter med that is meant prevent diarrhea issues. As strange as it may sound, Loperamide has now led to a heavy amount of U.S. overdoses and is frequently being abused by those looking to avoid opioid withdrawals.
The label this med has now received is “the poor man’s methadone.” Variations of it can also be found in the more familiar brand name Imodium AD and, as mentioned above, it is easily accessible at virtually every pharmacy.
The reason loperamide (or Imodium) has made headlines is because of a recent study out of Rutgers University. Researchers there discovered that calls to poison control about that particular med have skyrocketed by 90 percent over the past five years.
There are definitely theories as to why people are turning to this drug, in place of opioids. Apparently, it can replicate a similar high when taken in very large amounts. Rutgers’ team noted that many painkiller abusers take up to 50 times the recommended dosage to achieve their high. Loperamide is also reportedly much harder to detect in a drug test.
Of course, consuming loperamide in such high quantities can make it extremely lethal. Rutgers researcher Diane Calello emphasized that point when discussing the study.
“When used appropriately, loperamide is a safe and effective treatment for diarrhea—but when misused in large doses, it is more toxic to the heart than other opioids,” she explained. “Overdose deaths occur not because patients stop breathing, as with other opioids, but due to irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest.”
So far, the study has raised flags within the medical community. Over in New Jersey, for example, lawmakers are already discussing how to change the way that loperamide is sold. Recommendations have included selling it in smaller packages, requiring IDs and locking it behind pharmacy counters. There has also been talk about a public awareness campaign to educate residents about the dangers of loperamide and Imodium.
The FDA has apparently taken notice as well. Their head exec, Scott Gottlieb, has requested that online retailers limit one-time purchase quantities. Gottlieb emphasized that it can be a tricky situation since there are people across the country who do need these medications for legitimate reasons.
“We’re very mindful of balancing benefit and risk and the needs of patients in our mission to promote and protect public health,” he recently told the press.