Table of Contents
Antidiarrheal Medications Definition
Information about Antidiarrheal Medications
Though diarrhea is unpleasant, doctors recommend letting the body restore its balance without medications in most circumstances of acute diarrhea. Acute diarrhea (diarrhea that comes on suddenly) may result from simple gastrointestinal upset following unusual foods and beverages, (such as when traveling), excessive caffeine consumption, food-borne illnesses, or viral infection (gastroenteritis or enteritis). These circumstances tend to resolve themselves within a few days, which may be briefer than the actions of many antidiarrheal medications.
Taking an antidiarrheal product may result in rebound constipation. However, diarrhea more significantly interferes with daily activities than does constipation, and many people opt to take medications to slow or stop it. It is important to drink extra fluids when taking antidiarrheal medications, to replace fluids lost with the diarrhea as well as to maintain adequate hydration of the gastrointestinal tract to prevent rebound constipation from developing. Some antidiarrheal medications are available over the counter and others require a doctor’s prescription.
Common Antidiarrheal Medications
|Common Antidiarrheal Medications|
|Active Ingredient||Representative Products||Availability|
|attapulgite||Kaopectate, Parepectolin||over the counter|
|belladonna||Donnatal||requires a doctor’s prescription|
|bismuth subsalicylate||Pepto-Bismol||over the counter|
|codeine||codeine||requires a doctor’s prescription|
|difenoxin and atropine||Motofen||requires a doctor’s prescription|
|diphenoxylate||Lomotil||requires a doctor’s prescription|
|kaolin and pectin||Kapectolin||over the counter|
|loperamide||Imodium||over the counter|
|methylcellulose||Citrucel||over the counter|
|octreotide||Sandostatin||requires a doctor’s prescription|
|paregoric||camphorated tincture of opium||requires a doctor’s prescription|
|psyllium||Metamucil||over the counter|
Doctors sometimes prescribe anticholinergic medications, which act on the nervous system to slow gastrointestinal function, for severe diarrhea. However, these medications have numerous actions throughout the body, and doctors tend to reserve them for use when other antidiarrheal medications are ineffective.
Opiate narcotics such as paregoric and codeine are effective for slowing gastrointestinal motility. Attapulgite, pectin, and kaolin are natural substances that absorb fluid. Though typically perceived as laxatives, bulking agents such as psyllium and methylcellulose also absorb water and can help restore normal bowel function.
Antidiarrheal Medications – Complications and Side Effects
Antidiarrheal medications are most effective for controlling outbreaks of diarrhea such as may occur with irritable bowel syndrome (ibs), inflammatory bowel disease (ibd), and malabsorption. Antidiarrheal medications are also effective for treating antibiotic-induced diarrhea that does not end when the antibiotic therapy ends. Remedies such as taking lactobacillus or eating plain yogurt may help restore normal bacteria to the gastrointestinal tract.
The most frequent complication of antidiarrheal medications is rebound constipation. A rare but serious complication that can occur when taking antidiarrheal medications that slow gastrointestinal motility is toxic megacolon, in which the colon becomes vastly dilated and flaccid and the flow of the intestinal content stops. Antidiarrheal medications also can mask conditions that require medical attention. For most people, occasional use of over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications provides prompt relief of diarrhea with few complications.
Page last reviewed: