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Drug Profile

Do NOT stop taking this or any drug without the advice of your physician. Some drugs can cause severe adverse effects when they are stopped suddenly.

Do Not Use [what does this mean?]
Generic drug name: bisacodyl (bis a KOE dill)
Brand name(s): DULCOLAX
GENERIC: not available FAMILY: Drugs for Constipation
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Do Not Use [what does this mean?]
Generic drug name: docusate (DOK yoo sate)
Brand name(s): COLACE, SURFAK
GENERIC: not available FAMILY: Drugs for Constipation
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Do Not Use [what does this mean?]
Generic drug name: docusate and casanthranol (DOK yoo sate and ka SAN thra nole)
Brand name(s): DIALOSE PLUS, PERI-COLACE
GENERIC: not available FAMILY: Drugs for Constipation
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Alternative Treatment [top]

Facts About This Drug [top]

Docusate is a laxative that works by softening your stools. Docusate and other laxatives in its family can cause long-lasting damage to your intestine and can interfere with your body’s use of nutrients. Docusate can also be dangerous if you are taking other drugs at the same time because it can make your body absorb the other drugs at an increased rate. There are other laxatives that are safer than docusate; we do not recommend that you use it.

Casanthranol and bisacodyl are stimulant...

Docusate is a laxative that works by softening your stools. Docusate and other laxatives in its family can cause long-lasting damage to your intestine and can interfere with your body’s use of nutrients. Docusate can also be dangerous if you are taking other drugs at the same time because it can make your body absorb the other drugs at an increased rate. There are other laxatives that are safer than docusate; we do not recommend that you use it.

Casanthranol and bisacodyl are stimulant laxatives. If you take this type of laxative for a long time, it gradually reduces your intestines’ ability to work efficiently. This causes increased constipation and a disease of the large intestine called cathartic colon, in which the intestine becomes enlarged and will not move without chemical stimulation.

You should not take stool softeners or stimulant laxatives, alone or in combination, to treat simple constipation.

Many people take laxatives more often than they need to. This is dangerous for several reasons. First, some laxatives can have adverse effects. Second, laxatives can be habit-forming. If you take them too often or for too long, your body will become less able to pass stools without them. This leads to a cycle of abuse in which you become dependent on laxatives and have to take them continuously. If you think you have become dependent on laxatives, talk to your doctor.

When do you really need to take a laxative? You should not take a laxative to “clean out your system” or to make your body act more “normally.” It is untrue that everyone must have a bowel movement daily. Perfectly healthy people may have from three bowel movements per week to three bowel movements per day.

If the frequency of your bowel movements has decreased, if you are having bowel movements less than three times a week, or if you are having difficulty in passing stools, you are constipated, but this does not mean that you need a laxative. It is better to treat simple, occasional constipation without drugs, by eating a high-fiber diet that includes whole-grain breads and cereals, raw vegetables, raw and dried fruits, and beans, and by drinking plenty of nonalcoholic liquids (six to eight glasses per day). This type of diet will both prevent and treat constipation, and it is less costly than taking drugs. Regular exercise — at least 30 minutes per day of swimming, cycling, jogging or brisk walking — will also help your body maintain regularity.

If you are constipated while traveling or at some other time when it is hard for you to eat properly, it may be appropriate to take a laxative for a short time. The only types of laxatives you should use for self-medication are bulk-forming laxatives such as psyllium or methylcellulose or a hyperosmotic laxative such as lactulose. Bulk-forming laxatives usually take effect in 12 hours to three days, whereas docusate takes effect one or two days after the first dose but may require three to five days of treatment. Even bulk-forming laxatives should only be used occasionally, if possible.

If you are on a special diet such as a low-salt or low-sugar diet, ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you choose a laxative without ingredients you are trying to avoid. Some laxatives contain sugar (up to half of the product), salt (up to 250 milligrams per dose), or the artificial sweetener NutraSweet.

last reviewed March 31, 2021