Those on the front lines battling drug abuse in the Santa Clarita Valley are bracing themselves for the latest trend in over-the-counter drugs abused by addicts — Imodium, the diarrhea remedy.
Drug abusers across America, many of them heroin addicts, are taking extreme amounts of Imodium to experience heroin-like effects, or to self-medicate in a bid to relieve the pain that comes with drug withdrawal.
Santa Clarita Valley is proving no exception to the trend.
“Within the last six months, I’ve noticed a lot of people coming in and purchasing a lot of it, a lot of kids,” Kim Kelly, pharmacist at Valencia Pharmacy, told The Signal Thursday.
Kelly likened the trend to kids abusing cold medicine.
“A lot of kids will come in and buy a bottle of Robitussin and drink the whole bottle to feel drunk. It’s the same thing with Imodium, they take it and get a buzz off it.”
She is considering putting the drug in a locked cabinet, Kelly said.
Cary Quashen, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital executive director of Behavioral Health and director of Action Family Counseling, has been dealing two local heroin addicts abusing Imodium.
“Right now, I’m dealing with someone taking it, and has gotten a dependency on them. He ended up the ICU (hospital Intensive Care Unit) with heart problems,” he said. “There are all kinds of medical problems as a result.”
Heroin addicts seeking to reduce the painful effects of withdrawal off of the highly addictive opiate, are taking as many as 50 to 100 Imodium pills at a time, Quashen said.
“There are times when the heroin addict can’t get the drug, he’ll get Imodium. Or, if he has problems with detox – when the withdrawal is so extremely painful – he’ll get it.
Quashen points to a study that warns of the intensifying problem surrounding loperamide.
The study, a medical abstract published by the US National Library of Medicine, found a 10-fold increase in the number of postings about the abuse of loperamide on discussion group websites dealing with drugs.
Researchers found that 70 percent of the postings involved people talking about using loperamide as a way of treating their opioid addiction. They found the other 25 percent talked about it as a way of getting high.
Imodium, or, as it’s known by its generic name, loperamide, is an over-the-counter drug taken as a remedy for diarrhea.
Loperamide is an opioid.
SCV learned it was dealing with a heroin problem a year ago when eight people showed up in the emergency room at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital with overdoses. Twenty-four hours earlier a 28-year-old Castaic man was found dead of an apparent overdose.
In June, a phalanx of civic leaders gathered on the doorstep of the SCV Sheriff’s Station to unveil the drug that save the lives of addicts – the anti-overdose drug naloxone, commonly called Narcan as a way to help stop overdose deaths.
Statistics released by the California Department of Public Health show a sharp upturn in the number of heroin overdose deaths across the state since 2012.
There were 561 heroin-related deaths in 2014, compared to 355 reported in 2011. By comparison, however, there were 1,449 deaths attributed to opioid overdoses in 2014 compared to 1,563 in 2011.
In the Santa Clarita Valley, heroin claimed the lives of 11 people in the Santa Clarita Valley in 2015.
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