Oklahoma Father Wants Imodium Regulated After Son Dies
OKLAHOMA CITY - Opioid addiction and Imodium AD, most people wouldn't put the two together. However, some addicts are using the over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication to get high.
For one Oklahoman, it proved deadly. Now his family wants to see changes at the state and national level.
"He attacked everything he did with a passion, just a gifted cellist and musician all the way around," Joel Hild said of his son Mitch. "About age 14 or 15, in high school he got bored."
That's when Hild say his son began experimenting with alcohol and then later drugs. Even though he graduated high school with honors, his opiate addiction eventually ended his college career.
"Monetarily, physically, emotionally, I did as much as i could possibly do for him to have a good life," he said.
The family sent him to a rehabilitation center in California.
"We believe that's where he learned about loperamide and taking a vast quantity of Imodium," he said.
It's an over-the-counter alternative many opioid addicts are turning to.
"It is a type of opioid," said Scott Schaeffer with the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information. "It's very easy to go into a pharmacy a grocery store and purchase several packages off the shelf and up until now people really haven't thought much of that."
Loperamide is the main ingredient in anti-diarrheal medications like Imodium AD. When taken in very high doses, it produces the same effects as heroin, morphine or oxycodone.
"At least 10 times the amount of the normal dosage before you'll see the opiate effects which is the drowsiness at first and that sort of thing and then they get the high from it," said Dani Lynch with Thrifty Pharmacy.
In Oklahoma, the number of exposures to loperamide has more than doubled since 2015, from 15 to 31. Aside from the high it can produce, excess doses can lead to more serious risks.
"In worst case instance it can cause the heart to not beat like it should, to go out of rhythm," said Schaeffer.
For Mitch, the dose was deadly. The medical examiner's report reveals he died from acute loperamide toxicity.
"When we think about the drug Imodium, we're not thinking about opioids or overdosing or taking enough to get high," said Oklahoma Rep. Cyndi Munson.
Once Rep. Munson found out about Mitch, though, she decided to take on the issue.
"I don't want to see any other young people go through this or anyone in Oklahoma to have to deal with this again," she said.
She filed a bill this year to regulate the medication, by limiting the amount you can purchase or putting it behind the counter, much like what was done with pseudoephedrine.
"It was hard, you know? I had to bury my son," said Hild. "We might stop this with one other family, whose son isn't on that path, and they don't have to do this and they don't have to think about it all the time because their son wouldn't have died because he didn't get a fist full of Imodium."
House Bill 30-67 didn't receive a hearing and is dead for this session. But Rep. Munson isn't giving up and plans to work on it during the interim and next session.