abusing diarrhea medicine

Sometimes the FDA takes actions that make people nervous. Concerns about abuse of the anti-diarrhea drug loperamide (Imodium) have the agency considering restrictions on this over-the-counter product. And that has some folks worried about how they will cope without it.

Imodium for Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

Q. I’ve read that the FDA is going to make it harder for people to buy Imodium. This is bad news for people like me with irritable bowel syndrome (diarrhea).

I have controlled my symptoms for years with one Imodium tablet per day. Without it, I need to be near a bathroom within 20 minutes of eating, and I need to stay seated for 10 to 20 minutes. Not fun.

This has been a cheap and easily available drug for IBS-D sufferers. I guess I need to stock up now before it becomes both expensive and hard to find.

What Is Imodium?

A. Loperamide (Imodium A-D) controls diarrhea by slowing the muscular contractions of the lower digestive tract. The agency wants to limit OTC dosage packs to eight pills, enough to treat acute diarrhea for two days.

Some people have been using high doses of loperamide to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms. Others have abused the drug in an effort to get high. It takes such high doses that people may experience irregular heart rhythms or cardiac arrest.

We have heard from many readers who suffer from chronic diarrhea. They rely on loperamide to be able to work or travel. Like you, they worry that the new regulations could raise the price and complicate their lives.

More Stories from Readers:

A.M. is frustrated by people who make it hard for others:

“Once again, drug abusers make it difficult for people who really need it.”

Carol says the new FDA plan would impact her life:

“If I have to limit my loperamide intake ( 1 per day), I would never be able to leave my house.”

Sura agrees with Carol:

“This is ridiculous. As an Irritable Bowel sufferer I need it often if I have to leave the house at certain times. I use loperamide when I travel almost every day.”

Donna in North Carolina says this drug is essential:

“My husband has an ileostomy due to ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s so he is prescribed loperamide. He can take up to 9 pills/day. Without it he would become dehydrated quickly because of the watery stool.”

What Do You Think?

The FDA wants to limit loperamide packages to 8 pills, enough for two days of treatment. Share your thoughts on this plan below in the comment section.

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  1. Captainr9k

    All I’m going to say is that your body wants that stuff out for a reason, and if you find yourself using Imodium frequently (with no easily identifiable reason or diagnosis), please see a doctor.

  2. Penelope

    It seems every time that bug Pharma finds a pill they want to sell, they find a way to proscribe a tried and true, inexpensive medication that is now generic! They are the most profitable sector of the US economy–on the backs of sick people and Medicare. How can we get them out of the business of being the fox guarding the hen house of our medical system?

  3. Pauline
    North Carolina

    My husband has Pulmonary Fibrosis and is on the drug Ofev. It is a godsend and he is now off supplementing oxygen. Unfortunately, the main side effect is chronic diarrhea. Imodium is the best drug he’s taken for it. Even the generic Imodium, does not work as well. He takes it on an as-needed basis which is certainly not every day. However, it’s something we keep a good supply of on hand. I would hate to have to run to the drug store every few days to replenish our supply.

  4. Janne

    There are SO many more responsible users of loperamide than abusers. 8/pkg is too few.

  5. Laurie La B

    I have a bad case of IBS. It rules my life. Can’t go out all day anywhere. I don’t like taking meds but if I get invited to eat out, Imodium is a life saver. Even then I only take 1/2 a pill.

    This is a terrible disease. I had a bad case if UTI that the drs. Couldn’t clear up. A friend cleared it with essential oils and herbs. And feels she can help with ibs. My dr. was very impressed with the results and said to stay on the oils. So there are different ways to help our health problems so we don’t have to depend on drugs.

    But Imodium is helpful and it is a shame that a few people have to abuse it, so it isn’t available to those who can’t find anything else that works.

  6. Richard
    Homosassa, FL

    I have IBS controlled with 2-4 pills per day. My nearest pharmacy is a 2-hour round trip. Limiting my purchase will mean spending the rest of my life commuting to the drug store.

    In trying to abolish every substance that can be abused, FDA is acting like a Biased tyrant. If they really wanted to protect people from dangerous drugs they would limit access to sugar.

    Children can be abused. When is FDA going to limit human reproduction?

  7. Sharon

    Is this truly happening? Or just a proposal? As seen by these comments, this is an essential otc solution. Who can we contact to combat this ruling?

  8. Jorge

    Is there an FDA website where people can post their concerns?

  9. Mary

    I am troubled with IBS and once I read in your column about peppermint oil I started taking that before meals and it really works for me. Better than taking chemicals.

  10. Doug
    Philadelphia Pa

    We will NOT control drug abuse by regulating. We need treatment. A recovering alcoholic.

  11. Husie
    South Carolina

    Hallelujah ! * I wished I’d found a penny every time I heard that said in conversations across this country ( USA ). The f.d.a. appears to jump up & down in glee every time they stop Americans from using proven old time remedies , especially if there’s a big pharma, prescription needed product available. American Citizens do not need a government agency to baby us !

  12. ray

    Sounds like FDA has failed us again. It’s not like somebody is gonna take them if not need and be constipated. They should be more concerned with fast track med to market because big pharma gave some money.

  13. Anon

    My mother has struggled with chronic diarrhea for 30+ years. Now that she has dementia and is under my care, I have consulted with her doctor and she is now taking 2 OTC loperamide a day, as PRESCRIBED. And when she had to be hospitalized last year and they didn’t believe she really needed them, well, they learned.

    I wonder if an Rx will be a way to get around the FDA recommendations.

  14. Julia

    I have Crohn’s disease and an a high output ileostomy. Without 4-6 pills daily of Imodium I couldn’t work or leave the house. Will you please forward these comments to the FDA?

  15. Nancy

    I have IBS which got so severe I was hospitalized. I am 76 yrs. old and the diarrhea became so severe that my potassium levels dropped to a dangerous level because of all the nutrients I was losing. I had to have potassium infusions to replenish and bring my levels within a normal level. The anxiety that ensues with the fear of having a bout of diarrhea is not “fun”.

    Loperamide is the only thing that helps to get the diarrhea under control. One can overdose on anything including aspirin and Pepto Bismol for that matter. The FDA should focus on more serious issues not Imodium. This absolutely ridiculous!!!

  16. Diane

    It baffles..no..infuriates me that a diarrhea treatment, a vital quality of life med for so many, would be restricted.
    I have had occasional, (horrendous) bouts of IBS-D..as in being admitted to an ER for IVs and treatment. It can be dreadful and embarrassing.

    My husband recently died of cirrhosis, a horrible but avoidable death stemming from an addiction. I never noticed bars being closed or alcohol being made unavailable. This is why after 3 rounds of unsuccessful treatment last fall for a serious respiratory infection, that lasted many weeks, I was FINALLY given a scrip for codeine cough syrup..$170 a bottle!…and was told by the Walgreen’s pharmacist Medicare “doesn’t like” to cover cough meds!! Ridiculous.

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