Diarrhea Meds… A Replacement for Heroin?

Addict injecting

Drug addicts will never cease to amaze society with their creativity for finding new, cheap, legal ways to get high. Years ago Jr. High and High School-aged kids frequented pharmacies to purchase and consume mass quantities of Robitussin cough syrup, Coricidin Cold and Cough (known as “Triple C’s”) and Dramamine motion sickness medication to get a cheap LSD-type high that is undetectable on drug tests. These drugs are legal, sold over-the-counter without a prescription, and can be purchased by anyone, regardless of age.

Currently, there is an even more disturbing new trend where drug addicts are purposely overdosing themselves on a very well-known anti-diarrhea medication—Imodium. Imodium is a popularly used medication found in most bathroom medicine cabinets across the nation. The active ingredient is Loperamide, which oddly enough, is an opiate.

So how is it possible for pharmacies to sell an unregulated opiate over-the-counter?

Loperamide, while being an opiate just like Oxycodone and Heroin, is not used as a painkiller. It was originally thought, while the drug was in trial stages, that the chemical was incapable of attaching to opiate receptors in the brain, only attaching to the receptors located in the stomach and intestinal tract. Therefore, Loperamide was labeled as having a low risk for abuse or dependency. Since all known opiates cause constipation, Loperamide was used for this side-effect to handle the symptoms of diarrhea.

With more addicts now than ever before, there have been more and more cases of Loperamide overdoses. The recommended dose is 17 mg for diarrhea yet it was found that addicts take upwards of 400 mg of the drug, causing major toxicity and in some instances death.

In a world full of people struggling with addiction with no access to the types of treatment that will actually work, the cycle of addiction continues. Also, addicts often get put on drugs during rehab to get off drugs, keeping the cycle of addiction alive and well. Eventually, money and drugs run out so addicts turn to the next, best, most available thing-over-the-counter medications taken in extreme dosages to take the “edge” off.

Our society needs to change its game plan for handling addiction. While there are great rehab programs out there, they are not considered “traditional” treatment methods. Well, “traditional” treatment methods have proven themselves to be ineffective for many addicts. Society needs to see what works and what doesn’t. If the right treatments became mainstream and were more widely available and accepted, we wouldn’t have a society full of addicts strung out on anti-diarrhea medicine and cough syrup.

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Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 11 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.