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Bisacodyl is the generic name for a laxative used to alleviate constipation, promote regularity in certain bowel disorders, and to empty the bowels prior to certain medical procedures.
This medication should not be used in children under the age of 12 without doctor instruction. It can be used while pregnant or breastfeeding, provided treatment does not exceed 7 consecutive days.
Bisacodyl is available without a prescription. It is also sold under a number of brand names, including Dulcolax, Durolax, Correctol, Nourilax, Fleet, Alophen and Carter's Little Pills. It is a well-tolerated medication that has been available since the 1950s.
Feel Better Fast with Bisacodyl
Bisacodyl is available in several formulations, including tablets, suppositories and enemas. While most patients prefer to take tablets, tablets take considerably longer to produce a bowel movement; typically 6 to 12 hours after administration. Suppositories take effect 15 to 60 minutes after administration, while enemas work in 5 to 20 minutes. Outside of a hospital setting, choosing an administration method is simply a matter of personal preference.
The medication works by promoting contractions in the colon so waste can be expelled. It also increases secretions in the colon, which softens stools and eases passage.
The effects of Bisacodyl are largely dose-dependent; the higher the dose, the more powerful the effect. The standard dose is 5 to 10 mg per day. The vast majority of tablets contain 5 mg, while suppositories and enemas typically contain 10 mg. The maximum dose is 30 mg regardless of type of administration, and often produces a sudden, uncontrollable bowel movement. 30 mg doses are typically only given prior to medical procedures. Self-medicating patients should start with lower doses of 5 or 10 mg until effects are known.
In otherwise healthy adults Bisacodyl can be used as-needed for up to 7 consecutive days. If a bowel movement is not produced after taking a dose, or if the medication is still needed to produce bowel movements after 7 consecutive days, medical attention should be sought as it may indicate a more serious underlying problem.
Warnings & Side Effects
Patients with a history of rectal bleeding, intestinal blockage, or unexplained abdominal pain should not use this or any other laxative without doctor approval. Bisacodyl should not be given to patients under 12 years of age without doctor approval.
Side effects are usually mild, including:
More serious side effects are rare, but warrant medical attention:
Bisacodyl is considered safe for use in pregnancy or breast-feeding as long as use does not exceed 7 consecutive days.
Medicines have benefits and some have risks. Always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist or you have side effects see your health professional.