What Is Imodium Addiction? Loperamide Abuse And Addiction Signs

Last Updated: August 2, 2021

Authored by Olivier George, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Imodium (loperamide) is a medication available throughout the United States. The drug is meant to treat diarrhea, but Loperamide is often abused. The abuse and addiction normally stem from people’s desire to stay off opioid medicines. Opioids are drugs made from the opium poppy that cause addiction and dependence. Thus, users who suffer from withdrawal symptoms during recovery from the use of opioid resort to treatment with Loperamide. However, this can easily lead to Imodium abuse and subsequent addiction. That is why the public must understand what Loperamide hydrochloride is and what it can do.

What Is Imodium?

Imodium is a drug that belongs to the anti-diarrheal class; it facilitates the patient’s recovery from diarrhea. These medicines work by slowing down the movement of fluids and electrolytes to the bowels. This helps to decrease bowel movements in the body and stop diarrhea. In the 1970s Imodium was a controlled substance placed in the same bracket as cocaine and other mind-altering drugs. However, since the early 80’s it has become an over-the-counter medicine.

Also known by its primary ingredient, loperamide hydrochloride, it is available at pharmacies, shopping centers, and even convenience stores. Loperamide HCL can treat acute, chronic, and traveler’s diarrhea in adults.

When used in children, it is only recommended for acute diarrhea, and then Imodium dosage must be adjusted. In most cases, how long it takes for Loperamide to work is a day or less. However, some people can have severe diarrhea that takes longer to treat and takes a negative toll on their health. It is essential that anyone using the drug also focuses on staying hydrated and consider seeing a doctor. However, it is better to attend a rehabilitation center for medical care.

Uses of Loperamide

Imodium pills were approved as a controlled substance in 1976 due to traces of opiates found in the drug. However, in 1988 the FDA changed its status from a controlled substance to an over-the-counter medicine after it realized the medication did not affect the central nervous system.

The Following Is a Brief Overview of the Indications of Its Use:

Diarrhea The most common reason to take Imodium is for diarrhea treatment. When speaking about the condition generally, it is assumed it is not a chronic condition and that its cause is not related to stomach flu or food poisoning. Imodium pills treat diarrhea by slowing down water and electrolyte movement through the intestines, making the stools less watery. Pills can also be used to reduce the volume of stool from patients who have undergone an ileostomy.
Nausea Diarrhea tends to come with multiple other symptoms, including nausea. As a result, many people assume that the medication does help with nausea as well as diarrhea. However, the original formula does not. If someone is experiencing both nausea and diarrhea, one can take other loperamide formulas, such as its Multi-Symptom Relief. However, if one needs to treat nausea alone, one should seek out other medications.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that affects the large intestines and causes unimaginable pain. IBS is treatable using Loperamide. However, people using the medication for IBS are using it off-label. As such, patients should not attempt to treat their condition with loperamide unless instructed to do so by a doctor.
Gas As with nausea, gas is a common side symptom of diarrhea. This makes many wonder if loperamide can help with gas. Just like nausea, gas is not treated by the original formula. If a patient wants to use the medicine for gas, other formulations will be needed. And if someone is needed to treat gas without diarrhea being present, no loperamide medication should be used.
Food poisoning As with the stomach flu, patients must exercise caution. Food poisoning can be viral or bacterial. If viral, using loperamide is fine, within reason. If food poisoning is bacterial, loperamide use should be avoided. Keep in mind that food poisoning can be incredibly dangerous and it should not be treated with over-the-counter medications unless directed to do so by a doctor.

Imodium pills are effective in the treatment of diarrhea, but not necessarily its symptoms. This is because the signs of diarrhea could be indicative of other diseases as well. So, a person needs to be diagnosed first by a medical professional before administering Loperamide to prevent abuse.

What Are Brand And Generic Imodium Names?

The medication is a brand name for Loperamide. There are other loperamide brand name medications on the market as well. These include:

  • Kaopectate II,
  • Maalox Anti-Diarrheal Caplets,
  • Pepto Diarrhea Control,
  • Kao-Paverin caps,
  • Kaodene A-D,
  • Imodium A-D,
  • Diamode.

Imodium generic names are usually just the name of the central ingredient that is loperamide. So, the active ingredient is loperamide. Other ingredients include lactose, maize starch, purified talc, and magnesium stearate, iron oxide yellow (E172), indigo carmine (E132) erythrosine (E172), titanium dioxide (E171, and gelatin.

Companies that make generics of this medication include Major, Berkley-Jensen, GeriCare, Equate, and SDA laboratories. Parents seeking Loperamide for children must be careful when selecting an Imodium generic name. Some Imodium generic medications are formulations that are not safe for use in children. Be sure to seek the help of a physician before administering the drug.

Imodium Dosage Strengths And Forms

Imodium is a brand name, and multiple products are sold with it in their title. When someone says “Imodium,” they may be referring specifically to the original formula or using it in a general way to refer to any brand product. How to take it varies based on the product used, so patients must check the instructions whenever choosing a loperamide product.

Better still, seek the help of a medical doctor.

Loperamide Dosage Forms For Adults

The medication for adults comes in different forms. The oral solution comes in two prescriptions 1mg per 5mL or 1mg/7.5mL. Please consult a physician to know which prescription is best for a person. The Loperamide Multi-Symptom Relief caplets include 125mg of Simethicone used for the treatment of diarrhea symptoms.

Loperamide Dosage Forms For Adults.
Form Dose Form Color
Imodium A-D

Oral solution

1mg/7.5mL Liquid taken orally Light green with imprint 1mg/7.5mL on it
Imodium A-D caplets 2mg Capsule-shaped tablets taken orally Grey with imprint 2mg on it
Softgels 2mg Liquid filled capsules taken orally Light green with imprint 2mg on it
Multi-Symptom Relief caplets 2mg/125mg Capsule shaped tablets taken orally White with imprint 2mg/125mg on it

Although all these formulations can treat diarrhea, they have their exact function. It is best to get a prescription to know which one works best in a patient’s situation.

The Formulations Of The Drug For Adults Are As Follows:

  • Imodium AD is the original formula. It is gel capsules containing 2mg of loperamide HCI. This means that there is no difference between it and Imodium, as they are the same product. It acts relatively quickly and strictly treats diarrhea. However, it does not treat other symptoms associated with diarrhea.
  • Imodium Multi-Symptom Relief is designed to treat both diarrhea and its associated symptoms, such as cramping, pressure, bloating, and gas. The Multi-Symptom Relief caplets are designed to be fast-acting capsules, working more quickly than the AD gel caps. The primary issue with this medication is that it contains more ingredients than the original formula, which means it is at a higher risk of interacting with other medicines.
  • Imodium Plus Comfort is similar to its Multi-Symptom Relief product in that it treats diarrhea, cramping, and gas. The formula is slightly different, and many users note that they prefer its Multi-Symptom Relief. It is only meant to be used in patients over the age of 12.
  • Imodium Advanced is the same as its Multi-Symptom Relief. It is the branding used in many countries outside of the United States. Anyone traveling abroad should know to look for it if they want multi-symptom relief.

Is It Addictive: Data and Statistics

Yes, Imodium pills are addictive and can be deadly if their usage is not controlled. People who were previously hooked on opioids used Loperamide to treat withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, this led to Imodium addiction. Others in the recovery phase after opioid abuse also found out that Imodium helped take care of withdrawal symptoms. Instead, that led them to Imodium abuse. An article published in the 2017 edition of Annals of Emergency indicated that Imodium addiction had increased by 91%. Currently, studies indicate that Imodium abuse is still on the rise and steps should be taken to curb the situation. However, patients hooked on the drug can seek therapy from a rehabilitation center.

Imodium Addiction: Can It Be Abused?

The idea of Imodium addiction may sound strange, but it is very real. Imodium abuse is possible, and why it is possible comes down to how the medication acts on the body. When loperamide HCI hits the stomach, it binds to the opioid receptors located there. When taken in normal amounts, all it does is slow down the processes of the digestive tract, allowing the body to take water out of the intestines, making the stool more solid. When taken in large amounts, the medicine can pass the blood-brain barrier and cause the user to experience relaxed sensations.

However, abuse of the medication is also accompanied by several adverse consequences, including severe side effects, overdose, and even death from Loperamide. To avoid this be sure to consult with a doctor or strictly follow the Imodium directions given on the leaflet inside the packaging. In some cases, a person can not understand that he or she abuses loperamide until the symptoms appear. That’s why following the Imodium directions on the label or doctor’s instructions is critical to avoid unintentional abuse.

If the patient thinks that the medicine does not work, it is required to get medical consultation first, but not to increase the dose by themselves.

It is important to note that Imodium abuse does not mean taking the medication daily within the recommended dosages. Some people who abuse the medication do so because they are attempting to treat symptoms of withdrawal. It is common for people to use loperamide for recovery from opiate addiction. Doing this is unsafe and makes it likely that the user will simply develop an addiction. Should a person develop loperamide addiction, they must seek help from a health center. The adverse effects of abuse are serious and discomforting.

Signs And Symptoms Of Abuse And Addiction

Though Loperamide is an over-the-counter drug, it has the potential for addiction if taken in large quantities and this can have adverse effects on the health. Patients who suffer acute diarrhea associated with pain can become accustomed to taking these drugs thus, developing dependence. Once dependence is developed, it becomes difficult to stop. Any attempt at recovery may result in withdrawal symptoms. There are several signs and symptoms associated with Imodium addiction. These signs can be divided into two categories: Psychological and Physical Signs and Symptoms.

Psychological Signs of Addiction

Addicts who are hooked to the medication may display certain psychological signs. These signs may not be visible in the initial stages. However, careful observation of the patient can help early diagnosis and treatment.

  • The use of Loperamide in large quantities can cause a relaxed sensation in users similar to opioid. Thus, patients who misuse Imodium may do it to keep recreating that relaxed mental state.
  • Also, spending the entire time thinking of and plotting where to get the next dose of Loperamide is a sign of addiction.
  • Exchanging Loperamide for opioid just to have a stronger experience is a sure sign of addiction.

Chronic users of Loperamide must be carefully monitored for these addiction symptoms. The first point of call, in case of detection, should be a medical facility. Don’t try to combat them by using other medications.

Physical Signs of Addiction

The physical signs of addiction are very visible but subtle and shouldn’t be ignored. Signs may appear at the latter stages of addiction. Always keep out on the look for any of these physical signs to aid early treatment.

  • Pretending to have diarrhea by feigning its symptoms just to get hands on the medication.
  • Addiction can cause sudden changes in hygiene, personal grooming, and character.
  • Inability to refrain or discontinue the use of the medicine indicates that Imodium addiction is present.

The most obvious sign is a sudden change in the appearance of the person and his surroundings. Immediately this change is observed the patient must be taken to a rehabilitation facility for medical care. To prevent users of Loperamide from feigning symptoms, patients should only be given the drug after proper assessment from a medical doctor.

Who Is Most At Risk Of Abuse And Addiction?

People who have a history of prescription drug misuse are likely to get hooked on Loperamide. Prescription drug misuse is when patients defy the doctor’s directives and take medicines their own way, most times, in large quantities. If it is not checked it can become an addiction which would take a toll on the victim’s health and resources. Opioid addicts can use loperamide for treating opiate withdrawal. In this case, it is self-medication measures that do not prove themselves. Frequently, individuals who use Imodium for opiate withdrawal face severe side effects without desired benefits.

Prescription drug abusers and opioid addicts must seek assistance from a medical center where there are available resources to help them recover.

What Are The Risks Of Abuse and Addiction?

As already stated, misusing the medication can have both short and long-term effects on the victim’s health and resources. These risks range from mild to fatal and can happen immediately or in the latter stages of addiction. To avoid complications, use the medicine as directed by a physician or the prescription on the packaging.

Here Are Some of the Health Risks Associated With Loperamide Addiction:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Severe Constipation
  • Heart problems
  • Problems urinating

The consequences of abusing loperamide don’t only affect the victim’s health but can truncate the victim’s life. It is better to seek therapy from a medical center as early as possible to avoid catastrophe.

Signs And Symptoms Of Abuse And Addiction.

Imodium Addiction Treatment

Given that it can be abused and different formulas have different risks, people may wonder if it is safe. In general, the answer is yes. People over the age of two can take certain loperamide formulas. The medication is bad if there are certain conditions present or the drug is being abused. Loperamide side effects are harsher when the medication is misused and when people do not consider Loperamide interactions with other drugs. However, when used as directed and no complicating factors are present, loperamide is a safe drug to use on an as-needed basis. The medicine is a helpful drug to have on hand, but if it is being abused, the risks are high. Anyone who is abusing the drug or thinking about using it to stop another addiction should seek treatment. Drug rehabilitation centers have enough resources to assist addicts in getting and staying clean. Their addiction treatment programs facilitate a fast and effective recovery.

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Page Sources

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Published on: May 6th, 2019

Updated on: August 2nd, 2021

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.