Adding to the threat of New Jersey's already-frightening heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic, medical experts and drug prevention advocates say addicts are abusing anti-diarrhea medication when they're struggling to get the high they need.

Loperamide, the active ingredient in products such as Imodium, can create a sense of euphoria similar to the effects of opiates such as heroin when taken in mega doses, according to Angela Conover of Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.

The group has learned of incidents of abuse in New Jersey from community partners and people who work in the area of addiction treatment.

"People are in withdrawal, they need some sort of way to get high, and it's kind of like a stopgap," Conover told Townsquare Media. "Or maybe people want to experiment and don't have any other options."

A 2016 entry in the Annals of Emergency Medicine pointed to the increasing use of oral loperamide as an opioid substitute — abuse that has become more popular in the last decade.

"Loperamide's accessibility, low cost, over-the-counter legal status, and lack of social stigma associated with its use contribute to its potential for abuse," the article read.

According to the article, significant issues with the heart have been described in overdose scenarios.

"It is imperative that health care providers be made aware of increasing loperamide abuse and its underrecognized cardiac toxicity," it continued.

Conover said a major concern in New Jersey, regarding addicts and people of any age, is that anti-diarrhea medication is so readily available in any supermarket or drugstore.

Sign up for the WPG Talk Radio 104.1 Newsletter

Get South Jersey news and information e-mailed to you every week.