Antidiarrheals are medications used to control the amount and frequency of diarrhea of unknown origin. This means diarrhea where an infectious or toxic cause has not been determined. Although many of us are tempted to reach for the Imodium at the first sign of stomach cramps, it is counterproductive to use medication for infectious or toxic diarrhea. In these cases, the body is attempting to flush toxins or infectious organisms our of its system. If this mechanism is circumvented, these substances stay in the intestine and cause further damage. These medications are also overused frequently (most have strict guidelines about the maximum dosage to take in 24 hrs)which can lead to rebound constipation.


Brand/Generic Drug Names

Pepto-Bismol/bismuth subsalicylate, Motofen/difenoxin hydrochloride/atropine, Kaopectate/kaolin/pectin, Imodium/loperamide, Lomotil/diphenoxylate hydrochloride/atropine, Paregoric/opium tincture
Common uses
diarrhea of undetermined cause
decrease gastrointestinal peristalsis by direct action on intestinal muscles; inhibit prostaglandin synthesis causing gastrointestinal hypermotility; act on mucosal receptors responsible for peristalsis; or decrease water content of stools
Class contraindications
severe ulcerative colitis, pseudomembranous colitis
Class precautions
elderly, children, pregnancy, lactation, dehydration
varies by drug
Adverse Reactions
paralytic ileus, toxic megacolon, angioneurotic edema, constipation, nausea, dry mouth, abdominal pain
Additional Information
Assess bowel pattern
Assess electrolytes in long-term therapy
Assess for dehydration in children
Evaluate therapeutic response: decreased diarrhea
Date of most recent Update
August 07, 2002
Further information is available in the writeup for the specific name(s) of this medication class

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