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Loperamide Addiction: Why Do Some People Get Hooked on the Anti-Diarrheal Medication?

By Zawn Villines
Medically Reviewed by Yilang Tang, MD, PhD on July 26, 2021
Loperamide, the drug in Imodium, can be addictive and even lethal, especially at high doses. People with a history of opioid addiction may be more vulnerable to becoming addicted to loperamide.

According to a 2017 article published byAnnals of Emergency Medicine, abuse of loperamide, an anti-diarrheal medication available under the brand name Imodium, is increasing in the United States. Between 2010 and 2015, reports to the National Poison Data System of intentional misuse, abuse, and loperamide-related suicide increased by 91%. Loperamide is safe at low doses, but loperamide addiction can have catastrophic effects on your health. Here’s what you need to know about Imodium addiction. 

What is Loperamide? 

Loperamide is an antidiarrheal agent generally used to treat acute and chronic diarrhea. When taken in large amounts, the drug can produce a euphoric high similar to opioids, causing many individuals struggling with opioid addiction to abuse Loperamide either to get high or help manage withdrawal symptoms,” Aniko Dunn, PsyD, of EZCare Clinic, tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), loperamide is safe at an over-the-counter maximum dose of 8 milligrams per day, or a prescription dose of 16 mg per day. At higher doses, the risk of heart health problems and addiction is higher. 

Addiction to Loperamide

The 2017 article published inAnnals of Emergency Medicine explains that, at high doses, loperamide can mimic the high of an opioid. People with a history of opioid abuse may be at a higher risk of abusing the drug. Some may even use loperamide in an attempt to wean themselves off of other drugs or manage withdrawal symptoms, according to the FDA. 

Dunn says that some common side effects of loperamide may include: 

  • Flatulence
  • Dry mouth 
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dizziness 
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Headache 
  • Nausea
  • Constipation 
  • Problems urinating 

At higher doses, loperamide abuse can be just as dangerous as opioid abuse. The FDA warns that large doses of loperamide can cause serious heart health issues. Out of the 48 cases of serious heart problems reported to the FDA since 1976, 10 were fatal and 31 required hospitalization.

Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.

If you have an opioid addiction, don’t use loperamide to get sober. If you can't stop using more loperamide than the recommended dose, or rely on it to feel normal, you may have an addiction. Addiction is a treatable medical condition but avoiding treatment could cost you your life. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help. 

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