An opioid in over-the-counter anti-diarrhea meds has the FDA worried

Head to your local big box store, pharmacy, or even online retailers like Amazon and you can easily find anti-diarrhea medications made with the same main ingredient: loperamide. These medications serve an important purpose, of course, but some people are increasingly using them to get high. This trend has officials worried and now the FDA is taking steps to address the issue.

Loperamide is found in brands like Imodium, which is available over-the-counter. A quick Google search on the substance returns a bunch of results revolving around abusing the medication: information on how much it takes to get high and similar. Yesterday the FDA announced some inbound changes that will address these issues.

The medication will remain available over-the-counter, which is a good thing considering that if you need an anti-diarrheal, you're probably not in a position to make a trip to the doctor. However, stocking up on the medication — or getting enough tablets to get high — will soon be much more difficult.

Loperamide is an opioid receptor agonist, and for that reason some addicts have turned to the medication in an effort to deal with opiate withdrawals, as well. The FDA warns that individuals abusing the substance to get high are sometimes combining it with other substances in an effort to increase its effects or decrease the rate at which those effects diminish.

Severe constipation is only one potential side effect of loperamide abuse — the FDA warns that addicts have experienced things like unresponsiveness, fainting, irregular heart rhythms, and rapid heart rates from overdosing on the substance. The agency says it has been on the receiving end of reports about "serious heart problems" and even death stemming from abuse.

In an effort to reduce this issue, the FDA says it is working with manufacturers to change packaging and limit doses. Over-the-counter loperamide products will soon be available in blister packs and similar single-dose packaging with limited doses per package.

According to the FDA, adults are advised to not exceed 8mg of loperamide per day, a figure that doubles for prescription use. Of course, it's best to consult a doctor before taking the medication to ensure the condition is one that requires loperamide and that safe doses for each individual are taken.