Doctors warn some opioid users taking 100s of pills of Imodium to get high

ATLANTA — Officials are warning that some opioid addicts are abusing Imodium and other anti-diarrhea medications to get high.

The FDA said the active ingredient in Imodium and similar anti-diarrhea drugs acts on opioid receptors in the gut that can cause a euphoric affect in large doses -- but that comes with severe health risks.

“I’ve known and most of my colleagues are aware of the fact that it could be potentially abused,” said Ira Katz, from Little Five Points Pharmacy.


Katz told Channel 2's Tom Regan he hasn't had anyone come in to buy up massive quantities of Imodium, but he is well aware why addicts are attracted to it -- and it's not for the product's intended purpose or its active ingredient.

"Loperamide by itself is a relative of opioids, but not as strong as hydrocodone or oxycodone," Katz said. "It can give you in large doses -- I don't know how many -- it can give you some kind of euphoric effect."
In an advisory, the FDA this week called on manufacturers to sell loperamide in single-dose blister packaging to encourage the safe use of the drug.

The agency said it continues to receive reports of serious heart problems and deaths with much higher than recommended doses.

Some doctors report patient taking hundreds of pills at a time to manage withdrawal symptoms from opioid medications like hydrocodone or oxycontin, or to get high.

“In large quantities it is dangerous, and it can affect the heart,” Katz said. “It can affect potassium and magnesium levels and cause respiratory depression, severe sleeping and breathing problems. So yeah, it's a problem.”

Katz said the other pharmacists would be wary of someone attempting to buy a large quantity of Imodium without a underlying chronic medical condition.

“We try to watch it very carefully,” Katz said.

Dr. Stacy Seikel, medical direction at an addiction treatment center, said she has known patients, struggling with opioid addiction, resort to taking large amounts Imodium and other anti-diarrhea drugs to fend off sickness when they can't get hydrocodone and oxycontin.

She said the active ingredient in Imodium acts on opioid receptors in the gut.

"It is an opioid, if they take a high-enough does it gets absorbed into the blood stream,” Seikel said.

The FDA also plans to reach out to online distributors of anti-diarrhea drugs, to limit quantities sold to individuals.