The concept of loperamide (Imodium) addiction might seem strange to most people. But this drug is abused more commonly than they might think. In higher doses than what a person might normally take, this drug can cause a high that can be addictive.
Fortunately, addiction treatment is available to those who have gotten addicted to loperamide. It may be necessary for some individuals to go through a period of drug detox in order address their withdrawal symptoms. But regardless, going to drug rehab is highly recommended. This medication might be sold over-the-counter, but that does not make it safe or easy to just stop abruptly.
Most people are aware of what Imodium is used for, but they may not realize that it can be addictive. We want to help people understand the dangers of loperamide so they are better informed and hopefully will make the choice to get treatment.
What is Loperamide (Imodium) and What Does it Treat?
Loperamide is an over-the-counter medication that is used to treat acute diarrhea. It also comes in a prescription form that is a bit stronger for those who have ongoing diarrhea that is associated with inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD.
This medication is classified as an antidiarrheal agent. It works by slowing down the flow of fluids and electrolytes into the bowel and slowing down the movement of the bowel. This can effectively decrease the number of bowel movements a person has.
OTC loperamide or Imodium should only be taken for a short period of time. It is designed for acute use only, and if symptoms persist, people should discuss the next steps with their doctors.
How do People Abuse Imodium?
Imodium is typically abused by taking much higher doses than what is recommended on the packaging. There is no evidence of people crushing the pills to snort them or inject them. They simply swallow them for one of a few different reasons, which we will discuss below.
Why do People Abuse Loperamide?
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) has issued a warning to family doctors regarding the improper use of loperamide. In recent years, there has been a growing trend in which people will use larger doses of this drug than normal. There are a few reasons why.
When Imodium is abused at high doses, it can produce a euphoric high. This high is similar to what people experience when they abuse opioid drugs. Loperamide is known to activate the body’s opioid receptors.
Interestingly enough, many abusers refer to this drug as the “poor man’s methadone.” This is because a lot of people will use it as a way to self-medicate their addiction to opioids, such as heroin and prescription painkillers. It is their attempt to avoid having to go through a professional detox and rehab program.
What are the Side Effects of Loperamide?
Most people who take or abuse loperamide will experience relief from diarrhea symptoms. But there are other side effects that can occur that are much less pleasant, such as:
- Dry mouth
- Stomach cramps
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Problems with urination
These effects are often multiplied with higher doses of the drug.
The Short-Term Effects
Imodium can be a dangerous drug to abuse even in the short-term. People who take it in higher doses than normal even for just a short period of time may experience:
- Euphoria similar to opioids.
- A feeling of relaxation.
- Excessive bloating.
- Loss of appetite.
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
- Severe stomach pain.
The Long-Term Effects
It stands to reason that the longer a drug is abused, the more dangerous its effects can become. The same is true for loperamide. People who take it at higher doses than normal put themselves at risk for overdosing on this drug. They may also experience the following long-term effects:
- Heart irregularities.
- Urine retention.
- Bowel obstructions.
- Central nervous system depression.
- Respiratory depression.
How Do People Get Addicted to Imodium?
An addiction to Imodium can occur with continued use of this drug at higher-than-normal doses. In order for a person to experience its euphoric effects, they may need to take a large amount of tablets. Some experts believe that between 50 – 400 pills a day are needed to achieve those effects.
As we mentioned previously, this addiction is very similar to what people experience when they are addicted to opioids. In excess amounts, the drug produces extra dopamine in the brain, which is what causes euphoria. Over time, a person’s brain loses the ability to make this chemical on its own. This can cause the person to feel strange and not like themselves. They end up needing to abuse Imodium again just to feel normal.
Once a person feels as though they have to have Imodium just to feel okay, they are most likely addicted to the drug.
Signs of Addiction
Most people think that because loperamide is an OTC drug, it is safe for them to use and even abuse. But that is not the case at all. Most drugs can cause addiction and dependence if they are being abused for a period of time.
Some of the signs that indicate a person might be addicted to loperamide include:
- Taking this drug once it is no longer needed.
- Taking this medication for longer than it was prescribed or recommended.
- Needing to take larger amounts of the drug in order to get the same effects.
- Becoming obsessed with loperamide and having it dominate one’s thoughts throughout the day.
- Finding that they cannot stop even if they have the desire to.
- Falsifying symptoms to a doctor in order to get a prescription.
- Using this drug instead of opioids in order to get high.
- Displaying sudden changes in behavior, hygiene and appearance.
There are other symptoms of addiction to look for as well, and they include:
- Continuing to use a drug even if it is resulting in health problems.
- Taking risks to obtain or use the drug.
- Giving up activities the person once enjoyed in favor of using.
- Denying that the person has a drug abuse problem.
- Mixing loperamide with other drugs to get different or greater effects.
Overdosing on Loperamide: Is it Possible?
It is possible to take too much loperamide at one time and actually experience an overdose as a result. This comes as a surprise to a lot of people who think of this drug as safe because it is available over-the-counter.
When taken in large quantities, loperamide has a lot of risks, including the risk of:
- Kidney damage.
- Cognitive damage.
- Cardiovascular damage.
Some of the symptoms of a loperamide overdose include:
- A rapid or irregular pulse.
- Problems urinating.
- Kidney failure.
- Fainting spells and dizziness.
- Stomach pain.
- Dilated pupils.
- Drowsiness or becoming unconscious.
There is no telling how much loperamide is needed for a person to overdose until it happens. Some people may experience serious complications and overdose symptoms if they even double the normal dose of this drug. Others can take it excessively without any concerns that they have taken too much. This is why it is so important to adhere to what the packaging says regarding dosing.
Recovering from Loperamide Addiction
Loperamide addiction is very real, and treatment is often needed to help people get off this drug. This may mean going through a period of detox and rehab in order to get the help that is necessary to stop.
The purpose of drug detox programs is to address the withdrawal symptoms people experience when stopping the use of a drug. Many of the symptoms people have are similar to what they expect during opioid withdrawal, and they can include:
- Muscle aches and pains.
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
- Dilated pupils.
- Runny eyes and nose.
- Cravings for loperamide.
- Insomnia or other sleep disturbances.
- Stomach cramps.
- Excessive sweating.
Detoxing can shorten the duration of withdrawal and make recovering a lot easier. Some people may be tapered off this drug slowly in order to lessen the severity of withdrawal. Medical detox is highly recommended for people who are addicted to loperamide. It allows them to be carefully monitored during recovery, and they can take medications to help with their symptoms. Holistic detox can be helpful as well because it offers more natural treatments.
Once the person has detoxed off Imodium, they are ready to move on to the next phase of recovery, which is drug rehab. During this period, they will undergo both individual and group therapy to address the cause of their substance abuse problem.
That is the goal of drug rehabilitation – to determine what caused a person to get addicted and then to treat that cause. In the case of Imodium addiction, the individual could be addicted for several reasons, including:
- Using this drug for the purpose of getting high and for recreational reasons.
- Using this drug in place of an opioid in order to self-medicate withdrawal.
- Using this drug to self-treat the symptoms of a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety.
When a person abuses Imodium because it helps to relieve their mental health symptoms, they have what is called a co-occurring disorder. This means they have a psychological issue that is driving their substance abuse problems.
Dual diagnosis treatment is highly recommended for anyone with a co-occurring disorder. It treats their symptoms and the addiction at the same time and gives them a better chance of long-term recovery.
SpringBoard Recovery Can Help People Who are Addicted to Imodium
At SpringBoard Recovery, we have worked with people with all types of addictions, including Imodium/loperamide. We know how challenging recovery can be, and we aim to make it as easy as possible through professional treatment that has proven to be effective.
The first step is to go through drug detox. Even though we do not offer detoxification services at our facility, we recognize that this step should not be skipped. We offer detox referrals to area programs that we have known and worked with in the past. Clients will get the help they need for their withdrawal symptoms during detox. Afterward, they will be ready to move on to rehab.
Drug rehab at SpringBoard Recovery is offered on an outpatient basis. Our intensive outpatient program (IOP) offers a flexible option that many of our clients appreciate. They can come to treatment during the evening and continue to work, go to school or take care of other responsibilities during the day. Our IOP generally requires attendance at appointments 3-5 times per week.
Many of the people we work with have supportive families and loved ones at home. But some do not. They may live with others who also use drugs and alcohol, or they may even be in abusing home situations. In cases like these, we highly recommend our sober living program. Staying in a sober living home offers many benefits. It is a healthy place to recover in which people are surrounded by others who have the same mindset they do. Also, people often choose to travel for rehab, and they may wish to stay in our sober living home while they are getting treatment at our Arizona facility.
Learn More About Loperamide (Imodium) Addiction, Treatment and Recovery
There has never been a better time to recover from loperamide addiction than right now. Perhaps this is something that you have been putting off because you were scared about what to expect. Or maybe since this drug is an OTC medication, you did not really think that treatment was necessary. The fact is that even though it is perceived safe, Imodium can be dangerous. Going through detox and rehab can help.
Would you like to learn more about loperamide (Imodium) addiction? Do you have questions about our addiction treatment program or sober living home? Please contact us today.