Laxatives are medications that are used to relieve constipation or prepare the bowel for examination or surgery. Unfortunately, laxatives are abused frequently by those with eating disorders, since they can be used for purging. This can lead to nutritional deficits and rebound constipation, as well as dependence.


Brand/Generic Drug Names

Citrucel/methylcellulose, Metamucil/psyllium, mineral oil, glycerin, lactulose, Milk of Magnesia or Epsom salt or Citroma/ magnesium salts, Dulcolax/bisacodyl, cascara sagrada, Senokot/senna, castor oil, Ex-lax/phenolphthalein, docusate
Common uses
constipation, preparation for bowel and rectal exam, prevent straining
: Bulk laxatives: absorb water, expand to increase moisture content and bulk of stool
Lubricants: lubricate
Osmotics: draw water into lumen, increasing distention and promoting peristalsis
Saline laxatives: draw water into lumen, increasing distention and promoting peristalsis
Stimulants: increase peristalsis by direct effect on the intestine
Stool softeners: reduce surface tension of liquids in the bowel
Class contraindications
gastrointestinal obstruction, perforation, gastric retention, toxic colitis, megacolon, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fecal impaction
Class precautions
rectal bleeding, large hemorrhoids, anal excoriation
varies by drug
Adverse Reactions
nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea
Additional Information
Assess intake and output, cramping, rectal bleeding, nausea and vomiting
Assess cause of constipation
Administer with water only for best effect
Evaluate therapeutic response: decrease in constipation
Date of most recent Update
September 04, 2002
Further information is available in the writeup for the specific name(s) of this medication class

Lax"a*tive (?), a. [L. laxativus mitigating, assuaging: cf. F. laxatif. See Lax, a.]


Having a tendency to loosen or relax.


2. Med.

Having the effect of loosening or opening the intestines, and relieving from constipation; -- opposed to astringent.


n. Med.

A laxative medicine. See the Note under Cathartic.


© Webster 1913.

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