The term laxative abuse is used to define ongoing and repeated use of laxatives to get rid of consumed food. The idea behind substance abuse is a belief that laxatives move food more rapidly through the body so it can be cleared out before any calories can be absorbed by the body.
Laxatives have warnings on them which aware that those who use this type of medication for over 7 days result in severe problems. Most people who choose to abuse laxatives ingest a high dose than recommended and it also increases the amount they take overtime when their body starts to become used to the extra help that it’s getting. Others may take a few amounts and they even use the dose that is recommended but their laxative lasts for a longer time and would be safe.
Types Of Laxative Abuse
Patients who take laxatives in amounts exceeding the recommended dose fall into 2 categories that are those who habitually abuse laxatives and those who abuse them surreptitiously.
1) Habitual laxative abuse
Habitual laxative abusers are usually middle-aged who begin to use these drugs for various reasons. These include distorted perceptions about normal bowel habits as well as increased constipation that is associated with poor diet or some of the therapy. This results in the use of an increasing dose of laxatives which becomes difficult to interrupt whereas the patient does not realize they are doing anything out of the ordinary and may not admit to laxative ingestion when questioned directly to them.
2) Surreptitious laxative abuse
A laxative may be abused surreptitiously because patients with anorexia and bulimia nervosa where these 2 conditions distorted body image and a morbid fear of obesity lead to weight loss. Patient with a severe form of anorexia restricts the intake of food whereas patients with bulimia exhibit a binge. Both groups use other methods for weight control such as vomiting, exercise, and the use of diuretics.
Risk Associated With Laxative Abuse
After taking laxatives for a prolonged time, the body begins to rely on the help of laxatives which move waste through the body. People become psychologically as well as physically dependent on it, more quickly and they realize.
Laxatives are used in order to treat constipation, but when abused, laxatives can actually cause constipation to worsen the condition. Laxatives work by artificially stimulating, the nerves in the large intestine in which stimulation makes the intestinal muscles contract and move stool out of the body. But if it used for a long time or in a high dose then it can damage the nerves.
Keeping the colon empty is also risky when the muscle in the colon are prevented from working as they should they weaken over time. Together these side effects interfere with bowel movements. The person may become dependent on a high dose of laxatives to pass stool easily.
Laxatives don’t act as removing calories but they do remove water from the body when too much fluid is lost in diarrhea caused by laxative abuse, people may be dehydrated. Dehydration makes the organs get stressed and can be fatal if not treated timely. Its symptoms include headache, diminished sweating that cause weakness along with fatigue.
Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, chloride are lost at abnormally high rates in case of diarrhea which leads to weakness, irregular heartbeats, and also death.
Long Term Medical Consequences
The person who depends on laxatives results in long-term medical complications so, without having to work to eliminate waste, the body stops moving waste through the intestine on its own.
Impaired intestinal function
After a long time of laxative abuse, the intestine loses normal muscle function and nerve response that can no longer contact to evacuate stool. This is sometimes related to a lazy colon that means that the colon no longer eliminates waste content efficiently. Laxative abuse is also connected with irritable bowel syndrome.
Those people with past usage of laxative abuse can go weeks without having a normal bowel movement which can cause unpleasant physical symptoms such as cramps as well as emotional symptoms such as shame, irritability along anxiety. The effect may be reversible but recovery may be a slow process.
The intestine normally is coated with a protective layer of mucus which helps in the prevention of the wall of the intestine from irritation. The intestine contains bacteria that are important for immune function and overall health but the use of laxatives strips away these bacteria and leaves the intestine vulnerable to infection and irritation. Abusing laxatives increase the risk of colon cancer, the idea being that inflammation ups the odds that cells will develop abnormally during the process of healing.
Chronic severe diarrhea caused by laxative abuse causes the inside of the intestine to protrude through the opening and this condition requires surgical treatment.