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1 year ago
People Are Overdosing on Anti-Diarrhea Meds in Order to Get High

This one makes our stomachs hurt. According to a new report published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, drug addicts who are running dry on painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin are turning to over-the-counter Immodium, an anti-diarrhea medication, for a high.

So how does this work, exactly? While it’s safe to take up to four capsules of Imodium a day, addicts are swallowing hundreds of pills at a time, which causes the active ingredient loperamide to enter the central nervous system and deliver that high. (Loperamide usually slows down the digestive track to stop diarrhea.) The effect is also toxic to the heart: Two case studies report addicts overdosing on the drug and dying, despite receiving emergency medical treatment.

RELATED: It's Scary How Many Women Are Becoming Addicted to Prescription Painkillers

Luckily, this new drug habit hasn’t hit the mainstream just yet. But it’s growing: There have been a dozen overdose cases reported, and researchers suspect many more have gone undocumented. They also say oral loperamide abuse postings to web-based forums increased 10-fold between 2010 and 2011, and that there was a 71 percent jump in loperamide abuse calls to poison control centers in the U.S. between 2011 and 2014.

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imodium
Photograph courtesy of Imodium

"Loperamide's accessibility, low cost, over-the-counter legal status, and lack of social stigma all contribute to its potential for abuse," writes lead study author William Eggleston, pharmacist and clinical toxicology fellow at the Upstate New York Poison Center in Syracuse, New York. "People looking for either self-treatment of withdrawal symptoms or euphoria are overdosing on loperamide with sometimes deadly consequences. Loperamide is safe in therapeutic doses, but extremely dangerous in high doses."

RELATED: 10 Foods to Eat When You're Constipated

If the trend continues, there’s a chance Imodium (which used to be a prescription drug before 1988) could go back behind the counter. Not so ideal for mad dashes to the drugstore on Taco Tuesday.

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