The potentially fatal trend of abusing Imodium


A cast study on two fatalities caused by overconsumption of Imodium reveals a recent and strange trend in drug addiction: An increasing number of opioid addicts are resorting to abusing the over-the-counter antidiarrheal medication, with potentially lethal results.  

Case report

Overdose #1: A 39-year-old man in recovery for opioid addiction stopped using his buprenorphine prescription three years prior to the incident. His family said he was openly self-medicating with antidiarrheal medication purchased over the counter. The man was said to have suddenly gasped for breath and collapsed at home; he was pronounced dead on arrival to the hospital.

A single dose of antidiarrheal is 4 mg, not to exceed 16 mg in a day. Toxicology reports show the man had 140 mg in his bloodstream.

Overdose #2: A 24-year-old man also in recovery for substance abuse was discovered unresponsive in his home, except with seizure-like activity. Ironically he was treated in the emergency room the day before for urinary retention, which is a side effect of Imodium overdose.

Six empty boxes of Imodium were collected by emergency responders from his home. He had a reported 77 mg of the antidiarrheal in his bloodstream, according to his toxicology report.

Why abuse Imodium?

Misuse of Imodium seems to be on the rise. The case study, released by the Annals of Emergency Medicine, reveals that addicts have discussed Imodium abuse as early as 2005, but posts on one website increased six-fold between 2010 and 2011. Poison centers saw a 71 percent increase in calls related to intentional Imodium exposure between 2011 and 2014.

A number of factors likely contribute to Imodium’s popularity as a drug of abuse. The authors note that Imodium’s “low cost, availability and legal status have compelled patients with opioid addictions to abuse the medication as an opioid substitute.” When prescription medications become too difficult or expensive to acquire, addicts are resorting to over-the-counter Imodium.

Many Imodium users take the drug to manage their addiction symptoms, at least a first. One of the cases in the study definitively began this way. But self-medication can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than the original addiction. Some addicts desperate for a high begin upping their dosage. According to the study’s research, about one-fourth of online discussions of Imodium abuse indicate its euphoric effect as the goal.

If your loved one seems too attached to an over-the-counter products, whether it be Imodium, cough syrup or commonly abused toxic inhalants such as spray paint, it is time to seek help.

White River Academy provides reputable clinical news and practical information for staff and families of our recovering teen boys. Using alternative therapies and modern treatment modalities, we cultivate young men 12-17 with mental disorders, addictions and behavioral issues here at our residential treatment hub, tucked away in Delta, Utah’s Great Basin.

About the author

Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting.

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