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Consuming Large Doses of Loperamide for Self Treatment of Opioid Addiction Can be Fatal

May 08, 2016 01:37 PM EDT
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Many online recreational drugs forums often suggests that loperamide, such as Imodium, can be used to ease withdrawal symptoms of opioid addiction, but a new study shows that consuming large doses of loperamide for self treatment of opioid addiction can result in death.

"Our nation's growing population of opioid-addicted patients is seeking alternative drug sources with prescription opioid medication abuse being limited by new legislation and regulations," said William Eggleston, PharmD, of the Upstate New York Poison Center, in Syracuse, New York and lead author of the study, in a statement.

The study, published in the journal The Annals of Emergency Medicine, highlights two case studies of patients with history of substance abuse who tried to treat their opioid addiction by consuming large doses of loperamide. Both cases ended up dying due to overdose.

According to a report from National Public Radio, 10 dosages of loperamide or more can help manage withdrawal symptoms fro opioid abuse, while extremely high dose can produce similar sensation to that of widely used opiod pills and heroin.

However, just like opioid addiction, large doses of loperamide also have similar or even higher health risk. While opioids can generally suppress breathing, loperamide can fatally disrupt the rhythm of the heart. However, therapeutic doses of loperamide are still considered to be safe.

"Loperamide's accessibility, low cost, over-the-counter legal status and lack of social stigma all contribute to its potential for abuse," added Eggleston.

"People looking for either self-treatment of withdrawal symptoms or euphoria are overdosing on loperamide with sometimes deadly consequences.

With these finding, Eggleston is now advising health care providers to be aware of the increasing loperamide abuse and its potential cardiac toxicity. The author also recommends consumers to see a doctor before taking any medications.

"This is another reminder that all drugs, including those sold without a prescription, can be dangerous when not used as directed," Eggleston concluded.

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