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4 Possible Long-Term Effects of Imodium Misuse

By Stefanie Sandler Billette, MS, ACE-CHC
Medically Reviewed by Yilang Tang, MD, PhD on July 26, 2021
Abusing Imodium can be bad for your body. Here are the most common long term effects of Imodium abuse.

Imodium, or loperamide hydrochloride, is intended to treat loose stools, according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.  It can help with short term diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Imodium was thought to be a very safe medication until recently. According to a 2020 case report published in Cureus, the use of lmodium as an inexpensive opioid alternative is increasing. Imodium can cause problems with long-term use. 

Constipation

According to the Food and Drug Administration, Imodium slows your intestines, increasing the time between bowel movements. The maximum recommended daily dose is 16 mg (eight capsules), but studies by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) show that constipation can occur in some patients even at low doses.

Heart Problems

The 2020 case report published byCureus indicates that Imodium misuse and abuse can cause irregular heartbeat. The FDA warns that Imodium at higher doses can cause QT interval prolongation, which means it takes longer for your heart to recharge between beats. Cardiac arrest is also a possible result of loperamide abuse, according to the FDA. 

Breathing Issues

A 2020 study published by StatPearls found that Imodium in large quantities can cause systemic effects similar to opioid toxicity, including slowed and ineffective breathing. This is called respiratory depression.

Addiction and Withdrawal Symptoms

The 2020 case report published by Cureus found that large quantities of loperamide are needed to achieve euphoric opioid effects. Loperamide's over-the-counter availability has resulted in more cases of loperamide substance use disorder.

“It takes 100-plus loperamide pills to achieve any kind of high, and most folks are really doing it just to stave off withdrawals from heroin or opioids,” Jeffrey L. Reynolds, PhD, substance abuse specialist and president of Family and Children's Association in Mineola, N.Y., tells WebMD Connect to Care. “We know that addiction is a progressive disease, so misusing Imodium comes with the threat of physical and psychological dependence, which, when combined with stress and uncertainty, can be deadly,” Reynolds says. 

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