Opioid Abusers, What Are they Abusing Now?

Addicts who can’t find Oxycontin or Vicodin are turning to Imodium. Yes, people who abuse opioids are now using diarrhea medicine to get high.

Addicts who can’t find Oxycontin or Vicodin are turning to Imodium.  Yes, people who abuse opioids are now using diarrhea medicine to get high.  Why?  It’s readily available, it’s cheap and they’ve figured out how to make it work.

Imodium’s key ingredient is loperamide.  At the recommended dosage this drug helps to stop diarrhea by slowing the contractions of the intestines.  At very high doses loperamide works similarly to heroin, morphine, and oxycontin.  It’s an opioid that helps to bind receptors in the brain and can cause a euphoria or high. Addicts are taking dangerously high doses, up to 300 pills in one day, to get high.

At these high doses, there is a danger of kidney and liver failure, cardiac dysrhythmia or even death.  Poison control centers across the U.S. have reported a 71% hike in loperamide related calls since 2011.

The desperation of those chasing a high is unimaginable but, clearly, desperation breeds imagination. Every time I hear a new trend in alternative highs I always wonder who came up with this and how?  Is it by trial and error? Do addicts have a brain trust that provides research and advises on new ways to get high?  Or are drug addicts some of the most intelligent people on earth?

In a recent interview William Eggleston, PharmD of the Upstate New York Poison Center in Syracuse discussed the trend.  Eggleston was the lead author of two case studies about the dangers of loperamide abuse.  The results were published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.  

The researchers found that, between 2010 and 2011, web-based forums had a 10 fold increase in postings on oral loperamide use.  The majority of posts (70%) were about self-treating the effects of opioid withdrawals with Imodium. 25% of users posted about using the drug to get high.

Eggleston said that healthcare workers need to be more aware of the dangers.  He also offers a reminder that all drugs, including those sold without a prescription, can be dangerous when not used as directed.

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