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What is Loperamide Hydrochloride?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Loperamide hydrochloride is the active ingredient in several different over-the-counter diarrhea medicines. The drug works by relaxing smooth muscle tissue in the intestines, which slows the formation and movement of stools. As a result, more nutrients are absorbed, stools are firmer, and bowel movements become less frequent. Loperamide hydrochloride is appropriate for acute cases of diarrhea that are not related to more serious health problems, such as bacterial infections or ulcerative colitis. An individual who continues to experience gastrointestinal problems despite taking loperamide hydrochloride for two days should visit a doctor to learn about other treatment options.

Clinical researchers classify loperamide hydrochloride as an opioid receptor agonist. When the drug is ingested, it binds to opioid receptor sites along the muscle linings of the intestines. Acetylcholine and other stimulating chemical signals cannot trigger muscle contractions when receptor sites are blocked. In effect, smooth muscle in the colon is relaxed which reduces the frequency of diarrhea episodes and gives the stools more time to form. The body can then absorb nutrients and water more efficiently from the intestines.

Loperamide hydrochloride is available in capsule form and liquid solutions. The liquid solution is primarily reserved for infants and people who cannot tolerate swallowing pills. The standard initial dose for an adult with acute diarrhea symptoms is four milligrams, followed by an additional two milligrams if another diarrhea episode occurs. Children are generally instructed to take smaller doses that are figured based on body weight. It is important for patients to drink a lot of water and clear fluids, such as sports drinks, when taking the medication to combat dehydration.

Side effects are uncommon when loperamide hydrochloride is taken as suggested on the packaging. The most prominent side effects are nausea and dry mouth. Some people experience mild fatigue, drowsiness, and dizzy spells shortly after taking a dose. In addition, abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and constipation may occur. An allergic reaction to the drug can cause more serious problems, including skin rashes, face and throat swelling, and breathing problems.

A doctor should be consulted if symptoms do not improve after 48 hours, fever develops, or the stools are bloody. A physician can evaluate symptoms and perform diagnostic tests to check for infections, inflammatory bowel disorders, and other conditions that can cause diarrhea. If no underlying disorders are found, a person can continue taking loperamide hydrochloride. High-strength prescription drugs may be given if diarrhea becomes a chronic problem.

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