The death of music legend Prince thrust the topic of prescription drug addiction into the spotlight. Many people, prior to this, had been unaware that such an illness even existed as most are of the opinion that a drug addiction must refer to illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or even cannabis.

However, prescription drug addiction is a very real problem for many individuals around the world. The drugs these people become addicted to are those prescribed by a medical professional for a genuine medical reason and tend to include things such as strong painkillers and sedatives. Conditions like anxiety disorder and chronic pain typically require stronger medication in order to provide the patient with relief. Nevertheless, these medications are designed to be used for a short period. Long-term use and abuse can lead to addiction.

What About Over-the-Counter Medication?

Strong prescription medication such as opioids are only available on prescription because they are so addictive and, consequently, dangerous if abused. Nonetheless, some over-the-counter medication does contain small amounts of addictive ingredients, and although safe to take as directed, those who misuse them could be putting themselves in danger.

With people becoming more aware of prescription drug addiction and the dangers of misusing their medications, news that some drug addicts in New Jersey are abusing over-the-counter medication may come as a bit of a surprise.

The problem of addiction in New Jersey is common, with many individuals suffering from addictions to heroin and prescription drugs. However, addicts are now turning to anti-diarrhoea pills in large quantities to get high.

Risk to Health

In order to get high from Loperamide contained in pills such as Imodium, addicts are required to take the drugs in massive doses. Loperamide is an opioid, which, when taken in large quantities, it can produce a small buzz.

For addicts to experience any kind of effect from anti-diarrhoea pills, they need to take around twelve times the recommended dosage, which is leaving them suffering from severe constipation. The US Food and Drug Administration has concerns about the increasing number of those resorting to these over-the-counter pills to get high, subsequently issuing a warning in June (2016) stating that ‘abuse or misuse of the product can cause serious heart problems that can lead to death’.

Alternative to Heroin

Although many drug addicts are taking anti-diarrhoea pills to get high, others are using them as an alternative to hard drugs such as heroin. According to Dr Anthony Kolodny, a rehabilitation expert, some addicts will do almost anything to achieve the effects of an opioid drug.

One addict told that he was taking four boxes of Imodium every week (24 pills per day) in order to get high. He said, “I got to the point that I was hopping from supermarket to drugstore to steal boxes of the stuff.”

Although the tablets did not give him the same feeling that he got from other pills such as Percocet, they did give him a ‘pleasant tingling feeling’. Nevertheless, he was keen to point out that even though the effects are not as intense, the withdrawal symptoms from anti-diarrhoea pills can be just as bad as other opiate drugs, adding, “You start sweating, your pupils get huge – and this is about 24 to 48 hours after your last dose.”

Dr Kolodny said, “Once you are opioid addicted, once you run out, it feels like a panic attack. You feel like you’re going to die.”

How Prescription Drug Abuse Can Lead to Addiction

Once a person becomes addicted to prescription drugs, he or she may become desperate to get the pills when the prescription runs out. As in the case of some New Jersey addicts, abuse of anti-diarrhoea pills is an act of desperation, but it is likely to become more prevalent as this crisis continues.

Prescription drug addiction is a much more common problem than most people realise. The body quickly adapts to the presence of medications such as opioids, which is why these medications are recommended for use only in the short-term.

The longer a person has been taking prescription drugs, the less relief he or she will get from them. This is because the body becomes used to the drugs and adapts so that the effects are less noticeable. This often prompts the user to take higher doses to achieve the effect they want. Doing this constitutes prescription drug abuse and may lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Although most people who develop a prescription drug addiction will do so because they have abused their medication, some will go on to develop an addiction if they have been using the drugs for a long time exactly as prescribed.

As with addictions to illegal drugs, a prescription drug addiction will continue to get worse if left untreated. It is necessary for the person to detox from the drug and then complete a programme of rehabilitation to overcome this illness.


  1. New Jersey drug addicts are taking up to 24 anti-diarrhoea pills a day to get high but are then left with crippling constipation