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Anti-diarrhea drugs substitute costly opioids as high seekers switch to cheaper alternatives

It is hard to envisage the extent to which opioid users can go to get a “high.” In a bizarre twist, people dependent on opioids are now resorting to anti-diarrhea medicines to get the effects akin to opioids, and according to health professionals, this could be dangerous.

Anti-diarrhea drug loperamide is a new craze among opioid users who consume up to 500 pills a day to derive the desired high, equivalent to that of opioids like codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine or fentanyl. Taking high doses of the drug can cause euphoria and drowsiness, just like opioids and heroin.

Fraught with danger

According to a 2016 statement issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consuming loperamide higher than the prescribed limit is quite dangerous and could lead to heart complications. Many cases have come to light where serious heart complications were associated with consumption of higher doses of loperamide.

Some people take heavy doses of loperamide to assuage opioid withdrawal symptoms, says the FDA. Hence, it has issued alerts to warn and apprise health care professionals to remain vigilant against any misuse of the drug, which could lead to severe heart problems, such as ventricular arrhythmias and cardiac arrest.

Whether it is to ward off withdrawal symptoms or to get a high, consuming the anti-diarrhea drug in high doses can be fatal. Some even crush the tablets to make the process simpler, because consuming 500 tablets could be tedious and time consuming. A smoothie speeds up things for them.

Another aspect that is driving users to use loperamide is that it is economically viable. It is easier and safer to procure these drugs. Else, some users have to spend a lot of money to support their heroin or other opioid addiction. And in case of fund crunch, they get involved in dubious tactics and criminal activities to procure the drug. Loperamide is way too cheaper compared to other prescription opioids.

Users soaring by the day

The number of cases of loperamide misuse has gone up in the recent years. According to a report published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in January 2016, at least 1,736 intentional loperamide exposures came out between 2010 and 2015. Almost 50 percent of these exposures were reported to the 55 poison centers of the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 2015 and 2016 alone.

Prescription painkillers have been responsible for a mayhem in the country. It is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the U.S. Nearly 20,000 fatal overdoses happened due to prescription opioids in 2015, of which 12,990 stemmed from heroin, says the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

For teenagers and adults, running after loperamide is like playing with fire. Some even mix it with other drugs to enhance the effects, which again could be fatal. Mixing other drugs with loperamide increases the chance of a cardiac arrest. Some take loperamide to wean their opioid addiction, others to get a cheaper kick, but in both the cases, it is risky.

Dealing with addiction

Addiction to any substance, be it opioids, an illicit drug or alcohol, is associated with insurmountable problems. Chronic and severe addiction may even turn fatal. However, it is not the end of the road for someone dependent on drugs, as treatment can help people get off any substance and lead a sober life. One should not shy away from treatment or things can get out of hand. Hence, if you have a loved one addicted to any substance, call at our 24/7 recovery helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat online for information on substance abuse treatment centers.

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