HealthZette / Cliffside Malibu

Crazy Ways People are Getting High

June 8, 2016


There is always some new substance, it seems, that kids (and a growing number of adults) appear willing to try to get high.

Parents have now been warned to watch for Imodium abuse. The over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drug is increasingly being used among opioid addicts who can no longer access pills, or who may be trying to self-treat their drug dependence.

modium contains loperamide, a medication that depresses the central nervous system and the respiratory system. A recent study on the trend was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine after two people died from an overdose. One of the men died after taking six boxes of loperamide — a normal dose is two pills per day.

“Loperamide, in small doses, generally has few side effects, but in massive doses, can be toxic to the heart,” said Dr. Constance Scharff, Ph.D., the director of addiction research at Cliffside Malibu, a top treatment facility located in California.

“Loperamide abusers show up in the ER with heart problems. Emergency doctors are just becoming aware of it — loperamide abuse is not something we have tracked in the past. This abuse is akin to someone drinking mouthwash when the vodka runs out,” she told LifeZette.

Addicts aren’t the only ones turning to Imodium. Adolescents are also trying it as “a clever new way to get high that won’t show up on toxicology panels or other drug screens,” Dr. Shannon Ricker, a toxicologist with the North Texas Poison Center at Parkland Hospital, told KERA News.

It’s just one of the many “exotic” ways, however, that mental health experts and law enforcement say people are seeking to get high. Bath salts and spice have long been issues. Using vaporizers to smoke a drug of choice, taking drugs rectally, and powdered drugs pressed into normal-looking pills are some of the other worrisome trends, Keith Graves said. Graves writes for, and is a gang and narcotics unit supervisor and Drug Recognition Expert Instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“We have a major problem in America with the proliferation of drugs — thanks to more lax laws about drug use as well as a more lax view about drug use in general. The biggest problems with our communities right now is the growth of heroin use that has evolved from over prescribing of opiate medications and marijuana concentrates,” said Graves.

Addiction specialists agree. There are far bigger problems than Imodium facing this country.

“When I was younger and in the beginning of my practice, there was this gradual progression from maybe alcohol or marijuana, and people kind of ‘moved up the ladder.’ Now, people are going to opiates really early — or first,” said Dr. Brad Reedy, the owner and clinical director of Utah-based Evoke Therapy Programs, a wilderness therapy program for struggling youth.

“I’ve had clients who didn’t have a gateway drug. They went right into Oxycontin or heroin. That was unheard of even a few years ago. Maybe the normalization of drugs — pot initiatives, specifically — are desensitizing us to it. It’s not as shameful as it was years ago. When I was first practicing, heroin was ‘for losers,’ if you will. Only the absolute outcasts were doing it. I now have wealthy people in Manhattan whose children — that’s the first drug they try. It’s crazy. The gateway has changed,” said Reedy.