Loperamide and Opioid Addiction

The Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis in the United States has become an epidemic. According to the DEA, 120 people die from drug overdoses every day in the United States. Opiates and opioids make up a very large portion of this number. In 2014, over 24,000 people died from overdosing on opiates and opioids. The crisis is one of the greatest concerns facing the public today.

What makes opioid abuse so dangerous is the tolerance and dependence-forming properties of various opioid drugs. People tend to take more and more opioids over time. Once they become dependent, severe withdrawal symptoms make it almost impossible to quit using the drugs without medical assistance in the form of opioid replacement therapy. While some people have access to this form of treatment, others turn to questionable home remedies like loperamide in an attempt to curb their painful withdrawal symptoms.

Loperamide, which is sold under the brand name Imodium, is a well-known drug that is used to treat diarrhea. What most people may not know is that loperamide is actually an opioid. It is different from most opioids, however. While most opioids are pain relievers that act directly on opioid receptors in the brain, loperamide targets opioid receptors in the digestive tract to slow down digestive function -making it suitable to treat diarrhea. Loperamide cannot get past the blood-brain barrier under standard doses, a process that is required to achieve the painkilling, sedative and euphoric effects of other opioids.

Recently, people struggling with opioid addiction have been using loperamide to either get high or to manage the withdrawal symptoms experienced when abstaining from opioid drugs. To get the desired results, people have to take extremely high doses, sometimes in the quantity of hundreds of pills. Taking such high amounts of loperamide can lead to dangerous changes in the heart rate and puts people at risk of serious complications that can lead to fatal overdoses.

Opioids cause tolerances to develop in the body, which means that people get used to the drug and require increasingly higher doses to achieve the desired effects. Opioid tolerance leads to dependence and addiction. People who have become dependent upon opioids may struggle with addiction and dependence for the rest of their lives. The reason that it’s so hard to quit using opioids is because the withdrawal symptoms are often so severe that people feel like they have no choice but to go back to using opioids.

Withdrawal symptoms from opioids include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps and soreness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Opioid cravings

The chances of a person who is dependent on opioids getting through the withdrawal period without some form of assistance are very slim. Some people get professional help from a treatment center in the form of opioid replacement therapy. Others attempt to treat the symptoms on their own, using over-the-counter medications like Imodium (loperamide) or herbal drugs like kratom.

Due to the profoundly high doses of loperamide that are required to get any sort of beneficial effect, it is strongly recommended that people struggling with opioid addiction do not attempt to use loperamide to manage their withdrawal symptoms. Drugs like buprenorphine have been proven to effectively manage withdrawal symptoms when administered by a medical professional. Combining opioid replacement therapy with behavioral therapies and other supportive treatments is the safest and best approach to effectively treat opioid addiction.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.