Reports have started pouring in that a common over the counter antidiarrheal drug, loperamide, is being abused with deadly consequences. After a 24-year-old man was found dead and in possession of six empty boxes of loperamide, physicians are starting to question how easily attainable this medication should be, since it has potential to be misused by opioid addicts.
According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, officials at the Upstate New York Poison Center started looking into the matter and found worrying results. A toxicologist at the center, William Eggleston who is also lead author of a study about the drug that was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine said that the use of loperamide as a heroin substitute is something they ‘only started to recognize in the last few years’.
Even though it’s an over-the-counter drug, it is an opioid. But you can get high on it at high doses just like you can heroin. Its use [as a heroin substitute] is something we’ve only started to recognize in the last few years.
Dr. Eggleston and his colleagues found that the number of calls to their poison facility about loperamide increased seven times between 2011 and 2015, and national poison center data showed an increase by 71 percent.
According to a report in The Washington Post, loperamide was approved for over the counter sales in the 1970’s by The Food and Drug Administration after experts said that the chances of potential abuse were low. But now, the number of people abusing the drug has increased so much, it’s being called the “poor man’s methadone.”
Eggleston said that the next step should be to ‘ have it regulated the same way that pseudoephedrine and dextromethorphan are’ regulated.
What we think would be appropriate for a first step is have it regulated the same way that pseudoephedrine and dextromethorphan are, so that they are over-the-counter, but they are kept behind the counter and you can’t buy them in bulk.