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Individuals are using an over-the-counter anti-diarrhoea drug to satisfy their opioid addiction. By ingesting as much as 400 pills a day, some patients say it can give them the same high feeling as heroin and morphine.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is concerned about the numbers of people turning to anti-diarrhoea medication, such as Imodium, which is inexpensive, readily available and completely legal. On 30th January, the FDA requested that manufacturers in the USA produce packages with low quantities of the drug for short-term use in an attempt to curb the problem.

Loperamide, the generic name of the medicine, is considered safe at 8 mg a day, or four tablets. However, some individuals are consuming between 50 and 400 pills each day to get the same feeling as from injected heroin or morphine.

This week a UK inquest found that a 23-year-old mother from Liverpool died after taking a ‘high level’ of Imodium, which caused her to suffer a heart attack.

Ingesting the amount of pills needed to give the required feeling is practically impossible, but people are known to crush hundreds of loperamide pills and mix them in with drinks or food. However, not all are taking significant amounts of the drug to satisfy their addiction. Some users take the pills to help withdraw from morphine, fentanyl or heroin.

“The issue of opioid misuse and abuse remains one of my highest priorities and we believe it’s going to take carefully developed, sustained, and coordinated action by everyone involved to reduce the tide of opioid addiction and death afflicting our communities; while maintaining appropriate prescribing for patients in medical need,” said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

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