Two stories were recently released about anti-diarrhea drugs. One warns that using a higher than recommended dose can cause serious, even fatal, heart events.

Strangely, released almost simultaneously was a story of the FDA warning that overdoses on anti-diarrhea medicines are on the rise. Apparently, abusers of drugs intended to control diarrhea are taking massive doses in order to get a high that is described as “heroin-like.”

Now to link the two stories - poison control centers in the US are reporting that between 2011 and 2014 they experienced a 71% increase in calls involving the antidiarrheal loperamide. Loperamide is sold under the brand name Imodium. The recommended dose is between 8 and 16 milligrams per day. Some abusers report taking as much as 300 milligrams at one time. The drug in higher than recommended doses does have a psychoactive effect particularly when combined with ranitidine (Zantac), but the combination can be lethal.

Over the counter medications should be monitored in homes with the same care as prescription drugs. Used carefully and according to recommendations, OTC medications are safe and effective. But abused, these medications can have serious side effects and may lead to death.

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