NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (WPVI) -- Rutgers University researchers say they have uncovered a new threat in the opioid crisis - a rise in overdoses from the abuse of an over-the-counter diarrhea medication.
Looking at a national registry of loperamide overdoses in a national poison control registry, researchers found a 91% increase from 2010 to 2016, including 916 exposures and 2 deaths in 2015 alone.
Addicts abuse loperamide, the generic name for the drug commonly sold as Imodium, to self-treat opioid withdrawal symptoms, or to get high.
However, in large doses, it's more toxic to the heart than other opioids which are considered "controlled substances."
It kills by creating irregular heartbeats which lead to cardiac arrest, not by halting breathing, as do other opioids.
New Jersey's Poison Control says several people died or nearly died from loperamide last year.
The Rutgers team says the rise is especially worrisome, because loperamide is cheap and easy to get in stores or online
Loperamide abuse is being driven by the internet and online forums.
In the Rutgers study, the majority of abusers were Caucasian men and women, and the majority took the equivalent of 50 to 100 two-milligram pills a day.
To read the full Rutgers study, CLICK HERE.
Study: Imodium abuse a new threat in opioid crisis
Misuse alarming because over-the-counter drug is cheap, easily available
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