‘The Next Best Thing’: Addicts Without Access to Opioid Turns To Diarrhea Medicine

Children who are brought up in sugar free households – households where trick or treating was prohibited by parents who don’t want their kids to fill up on sugar – the chew able Pedia-Lax tablets in the medicine cabinets is always an alluring treat. Pedia-Lax was created primarily for constipation relief, but you can bet hundreds, if not thousands of sugar starved kids over the years’ have snuck out a tablet or two from the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. Sure, it doesn’t taste as good as Gummy Bear candies, and the side effects aren’t anything to boast about, but when you can’t get the real deal, the next best thing must suffice.

Today, a similar but more disturbing trend has developed. It’s no secret that ongoing war against opioid addiction that’s devastating San Diego, CA, and other communities in America has influenced many form of drug abuse. But one shocking side effect that no one saw coming is the unprecedented addiction to anti-diarrhea drugs.

It’s goes by the name, “the poor man’s methadone.”

Since a prescription is required to obtain opioid painkillers legally, many addicts have resorted to taking the “next best thing” – Imodium and other diarrhea medicine. You may think: “diarrhea medicine? that doesn’t seem too dangerous.” However, Imodium and other diarrhea drugs can be dangerous if taken in excess. They contain an ingredient known as loperamide that if taken in dangerously high dosage provides a great high, but also high price to pay.

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Loperamide Abuse

Loperamide was first introduced as a controlled substance in the same category as methadone and cocaine. In 1976 it was approved by the FDA after various pharmacological trials indicated that it “poses little threat of potential abuse”.  A few years later  in 1988 it was made available as an over-the -counter drug . The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had even recommended that people with diarrhea take medicines containing Loperamide before any long journey. However, as the war against opioid addiction rages on, the once seemingly harmless drug has taken on a new image.

Many opioid addicts today are abusing loperamide, much like alcoholics may run to their bathroom for their mouthwash when their Vodka runs low. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reports of loperamide misuse dates all the way back to 2003, but recent abuse have caused major concern.

What Loperamide does is that it acts as an opioid receptor and causes a similar high or feeling of pleasure when taken. Because of it’s addictive properties many toxicologists argue that sales of loperamide should be regulated as much as pseudoephedrine, a non-prescription drug used as the main ingredient to make crystal meth. And they do have a point. Many opioid addicts will do whatever it takes to relieve withdrawal symptom – even abusing anti- diarrhea drugs.

In one case a man just 39 years old fell unconscious after taking anti-diarrhea drugs and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. According to his family members, he was struggling with his addiction to prescription buprenorphine and had started abusing Imodium.

More horrifying, recently there has been a significantly increased in the number of individuals posting on online forums about how to use loperamide to get high. Netizens are suggesting dosage of 70 mg and upwards daily. This more than doubles the daily recommended dosage of 16 mg daily for relief.

An Easily Accessible, Affordable and Legal Alternative

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Since anti-diarrhea drugs such as Imodium can be purchase easily without prescription, many see it as a quick solution for their opioid addiction. Opioids such as OxyContin can be difficult to obtain in large amounts. Complicating the matter even more, nowadays medical professionals are more hesitant to prescribe strong opioids to their patients with charges for malpractice being increased.

Anti-diarrhea drugs can be obtained more easily than prescription or illicit drugs and are more affordable. For instance, Imodium can be purchased at Target for under $8. It’s a cheap high that doesn’t get you thrown into jail. So, what’s the catch?

The Price To Pay

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While Imodium and other anti- diarrhea drugs may provide a cheap high, unfortunately getting constipated is not the only price that you will have to pay.  Anti- diarrhea medicine can be toxic and even deadly when used in dangerous amounts. Although there have mainly been conflicting reports of side effects, some physical consequences of misuse other than the regular constipation include: kidney liver failure, heart arrhythmias, abdominal pain and fainting just to name a few.

Sarah Peddicord, spokesperson for the The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), a division of the FDA that regulates prescription drugs, spoke out against the issue recently. According to Peddicord, the FDA “will take appropriate steps as soon as possible” to prevent any further serious events related to the intentional misuse of anti-diarrhea medicine for treating opioid withdrawal symptoms.  Doctors are also being urged by the FD, to warn their patients of the devastating effects of abusing these medicines.

Treating The Underlying Causes

One of the best way to avoid the adverse events of anti-diarrhea drug misuse is to treat the underlying cause – opioid addiction. Prescription opioids have been proven to be very addictive because of their effect on the reward center of the brain. Individuals who abuse opioids may develop tolerance for the drug and may resort to taking anti-diarrhea as an alternative, risking their own health and kick-starting a vicious cycle of substance abuse that never ends well.

The best solution should be to seek professional treatment for the opioid addiction rather than turning to other potentially harmful substances. If you’re not sure where to start, try contacting a San Diego, CA, rehab center to assist you. Many addiction treatment facilities today offer treatment for opioid addiction and will provide you with the help you need.

At the BLVD treatment center we offer inpatient and outpatient private rehab programs for opioid addicts. Our inpatient program provides a safe drug free environment where addicts can live and eat healthy while receiving the treatment they need. The outpatient program allows patients to continue living at home with their loved ones while working to get their lives back on track. Call us at (888) 534-4699 to learn more.

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