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What is Loperamide Abuse?
Loperamide is the generic name for Imodium, an antidiarrheal agent available both in a prescription and over-the-counter form. The medication is available as tablets, capsules, or liquid solutions. Loperamide abuse, however, is the use of this drug for purposes other than intended and can result in serious health consequences.
Understanding Loperamide Abuse
When used as directed, loperamide helps manage acute diarrhea resulting from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Loperamide slows the flow of fluids and electrolytes to the bowel, reducing bowel movements’ size and frequency.
However, loperamide can create a sense of euphoria when taken in high doses, similar to opiates, like heroin or methadone.
The Hallucinogenic, Euphonic Experience is Rare
This hallucinogenic, euphonic experience is rare since loperamide cannot cross the blood-brain barrier in low doses. This means that it is not chemically designed to have an impact on the brain and its function. However, when loperamide is abused, it can cross the blood-brain barrier, enacting the brain’s same effects like an opiate drug.
Loperamide Can Be Harmless
Since loperamide is relatively harmless when taken as advised, it takes vast quantities of the drug to achieve any sort of “high.” To this end, loperamide abusers have been known to take up to 400 pills in one day.
In addition to the desire to seek this euphoric sensation, some individuals have started using loperamide to self-medicate and manage the discomfort of opiate withdrawal. However, since this medication is not intended to produce the effects for which it is being used, the quantities consumed by those who commit loperamide abuse are highly toxic and sometimes fatal.
Loperamide Effects and Abuse
While loperamide can help relieve the gastrointestinal distress resulting from opiate withdrawal, that is all it can safely accomplish as it relates to opiate addiction. Loperamide is not usually a dangerous drug and is available in some over-the-counter formulas. But with any substance, it can still have side effects, even when used correctly.
For loperamide, these side effects can include:
- dry mouth
- abdominal cramping
- problems urinating
The risk of these side effects is dramatically increased with loperamide abuse.
Large Doses Of Loperamide
Taking large doses of this drug can result in serious medical issues, including:
- Liver damage
- Urinary retention
- Paralytic ileus (stoppage of the intestine)
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heart rate
- Heart arrhythmia
- Heart attack
Public health professionals speculate that loperamide’s popularity as a recreational drug coincides with the rise and subsequent restriction of opiate drugs.
58 Opiate Prescriptions Written for Every 100 Americans
According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 58 opiate prescriptions were written for every 100 Americans in 2017. Moreover, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that over 2 million Americans abuse opiates and that more than 90 Americans die from opiate overdose daily.
Opiates are used for treating mild to severe pain but are highly addictive, leading to a national health crisis. As a response to public health issues, many medical providers reducing the frequency and duration of opiate prescriptions.
While this may reduce the likelihood of new addictions forming, those who are already addicted to opiates, and can no longer find, or afford the drugs they need, are now turning to new ways to manage their addiction.
Mental Illness and Loperamide Abuse
It is important to keep in mind that many of the individuals who engage in loperamide abuse are coping with opiate addiction as an underlying mental illness. The use of opiates is highly common among individuals struggling with mental health disorders.
Roughly 16% of Americans have been diagnosed with mental health disorders, and studies show that these individuals receive more than half of all opiate prescriptions. However, while individuals with mental health issues may struggle with opiate addiction, research indicates opiate use can cause mental health issues.
Mental Illness and Opiates
Due to their anxiety-relieving and sedative effects, the use of opiates is common among individuals struggling with mental health disorders. Roughly 16% of Americans have been diagnosed with the mental health disorders, and research indicates that they receive more than half of all opiate prescriptions. Opiate use can also have negative consequences for the mental health of patients who did not previously struggle with such disorders.
Opiate Abuse Linked to Higher Rates of Depression
Opiate abuse has been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Evidence suggests that normal use of opiates can also result in the development of those same symptoms. Additionally, some loperamide abusers try to use the drug to engage in an unsupervised, self-detoxification and symptom management program.
Having realized that the powerful withdrawal effects of opiate addiction are too much to overcome alone but unaware of how to decrease their dependence, these users are trying to use loperamide to substitute a less powerful opiate which they are addicted.
Loperamide to Detox
While, in theory, detox programs also use drug substitutions to alleviate withdrawal, loperamide abuse is extremely unsafe. Loperamide overdose can happen with even one attempt, resulting in cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory distress, and death.
Between 2010 and 2016, the National Poison Data System reported a 91% increase in loperamide overdoses, though only a few fatalities. However, this remains a growing trend.
Loperamide Abuse Treatment
Many people mistakenly think that because a drug is available without a prescription, it cannot be addictive. This is far from true. If taken in excess; or taken for long durations of time, can cause addiction. This applies to loperamide, as well. Additionally, for some individuals, addiction to loperamide may develop even with normal usage since each user will have a different reaction to the drug.
Once chemical dependence has developed, users will experience withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- muscle pain
At this point, it would be advised to seek professional help and undergo a medical detox and treatment program. This is especially true because so many loperamide abusers are using the drug in an attempt to manage, or quit, a current opiate addiction. These individuals may have multiple opiates in their system and chemical psychological and social addiction issues to overcome.
Medical detoxification is one of the safest and most effective ways to withdraw from loperamide and other opiates. Once detoxification is complete and treatment begins, prescriptions may be recommended to assist with withdrawal and ongoing rehabilitation.
However, detoxification and addiction-relieving medications work best when combined with a comprehensive treatment program that addresses addiction’s physical, psychological, and social aspects. Residential and outpatient treatment centers are effective in the long-term treatment of most addictions, including loperamide abuse.
Co-occurring issues may present themselves with loperamide abuse, such as depression and a history of other opiate addictions. Receiving specialized care in a dual diagnosis treatment center like Resurgence is an important step in a lasting recovery.
Resurgence Behavioral Health
Let Resurgence Behavioral Health help you escape the struggle of loperamide abuse. We understand what you are going through, and our diverse treatment team includes addiction specialists, medical professionals, certified addiction counselors, and licensed therapists – all dedicated to your recovery journey.
Do you want treatment but are worried about how you can pay for it? We have a team of financial professionals who provide free insurance verification. We will work with you to determine how to move forward with the treatment in a way that works for you and your financial situation.
How to Get Help
Together, we will help you build the skills required to experience a lasting change. Call Resurgence Behavioral Health today and let the healing begin.