Opioid High on Imodium | Health Blog

Date: 05/12/2016    Written by: Hiyaguha Cohen

Getting High on Imodium

For kids who grow up in sugar-restricted homes--homes where Halloween candy gets tossed in the trash by parents who don't care that all the other neighborhood kids get to enjoy their treats--the chocolate-flavored Ex-Lax in the cabinet holds powerful allure. Ex-Lax has been on the market as a constipation buster for over 100 years, and you can bet that thousands, maybe even millions of kids over the past century have snitched a taste to get a chocolate fix. I admit to giving the stuff a try myself back in my pigtail days. Of course it didn't taste as good as Hershey's and the side effects weren't on my agenda, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

A similar but far more harrowing and dangerous trend has come to light recently. Apparently, opioid addicts are now turning to anti-diarrheal medications­ containing the ingredient loperamide to allay their cravings.1 Loperamide is the main active ingredient in Imodium A-D. The public health problem isn't just that people are taking the medication without needing it. It's that they're taking massive amounts, 50 to 300 pills a day, leading to devastating health effects.2

What's that you say? You don't recall any buzz the last time you had the runs and resorted to a dose of Imodium? That's because the opioid effect kicks in only at very high doses, at least 10 times the recommended amount. Like other opioids, Imodium slows the system down, but in the case of Imodium's intended use, it works specifically on intestinal movement so that bowel movements slow down. 

"It's an opioid agent, and it helps to bind receptors in the brain and cause a similar euphoria or high [as other opioids like heroin]," explains Dr. Scott Krakower of Northwell Health in New York.3

Why would anyone take Imodium instead of more efficient downers like oxycontin? Because it's easy to get Imodium A-D without a prescription, for one thing. Those addicted to opioids like oxycontin usually have trouble getting enough of the stuff. Nowadays at least, ethical doctors don't like to give out prescriptions except in cases of dire need. Other opioids, like heroin, are illegal under all circumstances and therefore even harder to obtain. Another thing that makes Imodium attractive to addicts is that it's dirt cheap compared to the street prices for the more obvious opioids. At Costco.com, for instance, you can buy a package of 400 pills for $7.59. Now that's a cheap high if you discount the medical costs you'll accrue by abusing your system with such massive doses.

Addicts who can't get their usual, more potent drugs may take Imodium as a stop-gap measure when they start to experience withdrawal symptoms. According to a study just published in The Annals of Emergency Medicine, at 10 times the normal dose, users can get some relief from withdrawal symptoms. At higher doses, they experience a real high.

The danger comes because unlike other opiates, loperamide can also cause heart arrhythmias, kidney failure, and liver failure with sometimes fatal results. It also depresses respiratory function as do other opiates, and users can die because they can't breathe. The National Poison Center reports a 71 percent increase in calls related to loperamide overdosing in the four years from 2011 to 2014.

Popping a few hundred Imodium may not sound like fun to the average person, but as Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds of the Family and Children's Association says, "Folks that are desperately addicted, folks that are looking to stave off withdrawal symptoms will do whatever it takes--sometimes, really extreme things."

User conversations on the internet attest to what Dr. Reynolds says. "[My Imodium abuse] started when I was withdrawing from poppy seed tea and was fed up with it, and ready to try anything," writes a user on the website Bluelight.org.4 "I took 10 mg of loperamide and worked my way up to 40 mg, taking another 10 mg every 15 minutes. At 40 mg, I realized that my withdrawals were completely gone. This alone warranted loperamide as a lifesaver, in my opinion. I could always use it to counter withdrawals, so I need never fear them again as long as I was within range of the local grocery store or Walgreens."

Then later he writes, "I took 60 loperamide pills (120 mg). I wasn't expecting a real high, but … about 20 minutes after taking the 60 pills… I suddenly realized that I felt great. I had a real, bona fide feeling of euphoria."

The user goes on to explain that tolerance "goes up fast" and that he currently requires 170 pills to get high.

A bunch of other users chime in, too. Another writes, "130mg of loperamide gave me a codeine-esqe buzz. It works for me and that is all I care about. For those interested, I also [have normal bowel movements] after two days and the effects lasted over 8 hrs for me."

Of course, it's amazing that people actually write about such things on the internet, but then again, these same people are popping unthinkable amounts of diarrhea medication. By the way, the comments above were dated 2008, indicating that Imodium abuse has been going on for years, even if the medical community is just now catching on.

The authors of the study suggest that sales of any medications containing loperamide should be restricted in the same way that drugs containing pseudoephedrine and dextromethorphan are now controlled. Sounds like a good idea until you consider the fact that high-starved addicts will simply move on and find yet another seemingly innocuous substance to snort, shoot, or chew in pursuit of blissful oblivion.

  • 1. Venosa, Ali. "Opiate Withdrawal Driving People to Abuse Diarrhea Medication Imodium: Overdoses Causing Cardiac Dysrhythmia, Death." 4 May 2016. Medical Daily. 5 May 2016. http://www.medicaldaily.com/opiate-withdrawal-diarrhea-medication-imodium-cardiac-dysrhythmia-384700
  • 2. Dicker, Rachel. "People Are Getting High on this Drug for Diarrhea, Study Suggests." 5 May 2016. US News & World Report. 5 May 2016. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-05-05/opioid-addicts-using-anti-diarrhea-medication-to-get-high-study-suggests
  • 3. Finch, Elise. "Study: Addicts Turning to Anti-Diarrhea Medication Imodium A-D to Get High." 4 May 2016. CBS Local. 5 May 2016. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/05/04/study-imodium-ad-high/
  • 4. http://www.bluelight.org/vb/threads/398325-%28Loperamide-96-mgs%29-Experienced-YES-I-m-high

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    Submitted by Tyler on
    March 4, 2017 - 1:59am

    Wow, lets all pause for a second and talk about what a condescending prick the author is. For all those who suffer from opiate addiction, I feel your pain. Loperamide does offer some relief. However I have never taken close to the amount the Author quotes. Seems like misinformation to me. Best of luck. All things in moderation.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    March 28, 2017 - 9:31am

    We apologize if you feel the article is condescending. But keep in mind it was not made up. It’s reporting on a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. To quote from the study: “Recently, oral loperamide abuse as an opioid substitute has been increasing among patients attempting to self-treat their opioid addiction.” The fact that you personally are not doing so does not mean that others are not. It would seem to be anything other than “condescending” to caution people addicted to opioids against trying to use loperamide as an alternative—which now appears to be a growing trend.

    Submitted by Fatty Ads on
    June 2, 2017 - 12:30am
    Chicago , Illinois

    Wow. This was hard to read. The comments that followed we're harder still. I cannot believe the things that some people say in public. I have struggled with addiction in many forms over the course of my youth and adult life. If there is one suggestion I can make, it is BE INFORMED. My experience with Loperamide HCL began at a time when it was unheard of to megadose the drug for a recreational effect, and almost no one was using it to treat their uncomfortable opiate/opoid withdrawal symptoms either (although it was starting to be recognized by a tiny handful of "nerdy type" addicts for this reason) I tried the megadose the first time due to my own theories, which were based on facts about the pharmacology of the drug, and simple logic and reasoning. Years later, the whole thing has blown up, and you can find more stories on online forums about this drug than you can shake a stick at. Word has passed from one person to the next...some of them want relief from dopesickness...some of them simply want to get high. So many of these people have something in common, and that is that they have no clue what they are putting in their bodies. Whats the BBB? Do some basic research about this drug. I have heard many people describe the withdrawal from the Lop itself to be its own little nightmare...but that rumor should really be looked into further...yes you won't sleep a wink for quite a while depending on how long you have been on it. You will be very foggy upstairs (but detoxing from a large amout of any toxin will do this too) You will experience some sexual strangness for a while, and some other stuff...You will not experience intolerable back aches, deep bone pain, or endless sever hot and cold flashes. You won't have gut wrenching dry heaves, or throw up in a can next to the bed while you are kicking the sheets off the mattress. Its no that hard. Be tough, and honest with yourself. If you wanna keep taking the stuff, youll make a fuss about stopping, and find a way to justify it...even if that means blowing a nearly non existant withdrawal out of proportion. Good luck, and next time...learn about what you're putting in you. Addiction will be cured one day...then we won't have to read about everyones opinion on addicts weather they are one, know one, simply have a bleeding heart for no damn reason, or are a judgmental prick who looks down on otheres who arent like them. rant over. thanks for reading. Im a jackass too!

    Submitted by Kristie P on
    July 2, 2017 - 8:51pm
    Gonzales , Louisiana

    Hi, I'm a 38 yo female from Gonzales, Louisiana. Wife, mom to 3 wonderful kids & proud (young) grandma. I did not know opiates do this to you. Started off a few yrs ago innocently, & naive.. even at my age. Had no clue I'd need them just to function. You'd never knew if u met me. Ran across loperamide on internet and thinking about trying. I have no one, to Lean on except God.. Always have been the black sheep of the family.. Idk what to do, my own mom Hates me. This is more of a desperate cry for help.. Someone please help me, pray for me.. anything helps. My email is [email protected] God bless you all

    Submitted by BLUE WILLOW on
    August 5, 2017 - 4:05pm
    JOLIET , Illinois


    Submitted by Carla J on
    September 9, 2017 - 7:03am
    Hopewell , Virginia

    I ran across this article in my search for something that will ease the hot/cold sweats while I am coming off of opiates. This was a very difficult decision to make after being on morphine 30 mg er 2x day, and up to 6 oxycodone 15mg(on very bad breakthrough days/ migraine days). I am losing my primary care physician to retirement, and here in VA, like many other states, Drs are not prescribing as they once did for pain. I thankfully am prescribed zofran for nausea/ vomiting side effects of migraines, so at least I am able to eat ( tho withdrawal is making sweets my biggest go to food at the moment). I have been constantly on opioids for the last 14 years. I was diagnosed with a herniated disc, disc degenerative disease, severe neck pain and I have suffered from migraine since the age of 13. I also have effects from 2 wrecks, one as a passenger in a car, another as a motorcycle ride ( both occurred before I was ever put on opiates on a full-time basis; I was sober for both accidents, in case anyone was wondering). I thought I was finally blessed to find a Dr who understood my pain, and prescribed to help me. I now wish that he hadn't. I look older than I should for 54 yo, and I am really hating how I look now, so much that I avoid the mirror as much as possible. Another illness which steered my Dr to give me opiates for my pain is that I have CKD, (which MAY have been from long term exposure to pesticides, as I was an exterminator for several years) so a lot of NSAIDS are taboo for me to take. I don't blame my Dr, I blame myself for taking the easy way out in dealing with these issues. I did the chiropractor thing a few times, and acupuncture, but even that didn't get rid of the migraines. I am now just looking for OTC or herbal/ supplement suggestions that have worked to calm down the severe hot and cold spells as I go through weaning myself off the pills, and yet I don't want a replacement or high from something that I will have to go through the same process to kick it as well. I know that this will end, ( I am a little bit proud of myself, I am down from a morphine dosage or equivalent of 150mg/day to 45). I did this in the last 4 weeks. I am now taking a half of oxycodone 15 every 6 hours, and my Dr gave me a scrip for oxy 10 mg, so I can cut them as the dose gets smaller. Whatever I have left will be stored away, as not so easy to get, so it will only be used for the really bad migraines. I admit, many years ago, I used a lot of opiates to get high, but I haven't done that since my early 20s. Anyone out there who has been or is going through the same, I will gladly listen to any suggestions to help with the wd symptoms. I am really having a hard time sleeping.
    Thanks, and God bless!

    Submitted by Julie on
    March 27, 2018 - 6:32pm
    Anywhere , Montana

    The best thing you can do is a slow taper. Loperamide short term in small doses 8mg 2x a day won't hurt you, but you can become dependent on it if taken too long. Warm baths, clondine is helpful in reducing wd symptoms. It is a blood pressure med, so be careful if you have low blood pressure, otherwise it rarely has side effects.

    Have you ever tried Imitrex for your migraines? I have cluster migraines & it was a miracle for me. I don't get them often anymore, but they are hell. You take it at the 1st sign of migraine, visual disturbances, etc. I've woken up middle of night with a full blown one, it still works.
    I was afraid to take it at first, after reading up on it. When I had been hurting so bad for so long I couldn't stand it, I took it. ( I was in pain management at the time everything you mentioned, a few auto immune diseases like UC & RA, & cancer, but pain meds don't affect my migraines).
    Everyone is different, & it can have bad side effects, but I wanted to mention it. It's just a miracle for me, migraine, nausea, sight, hearing all pain & symptoms gone. No side effects for me. Every 12 hrs until it goes away.

    About wd's, look it up, Bluelight or one of those sites will have a list of OTC , herbal, etc non addictive ways to help wd's. If the taper is slow enough, it's practically painless. But if you don't want to draw it out/ have limited meds.....there's tons more info out there. Best of luck to you!


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