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Dulcolax (bisacodyl) is a laxative used to alleviate constipation, promote regularity in certain bowel disorders, and to empty the bowels prior to certain medical procedures. It is safe for use in patients 12 years of age and up.

The medication comes in small, easy-to-swallow tablets which cause a bowel movement around 8 hours later. Tablets are typically taken at bedtime, but can be taken at other times if preferred.

Getting the Most from Dulcolax

Outside of a medical setting Dulcolax is usually taken to provide relief from constipation, so is used as-needed. It should not be used for more than 7 consecutive days, however, without the advice of a doctor; chronic constipation may be a symptom of a more serious underlying problem.

Dulcolax works in two ways:

  • Stimulates intestines, particularly the colon, to produce contractions;
  • Promotes secretion of fluids into the colon, softening and loosening stools for easier passing.

Each Dulcolax tablet contains 5 mg of bisacodyl. Dosing is largely determined by individual response to treatment:

  • New users should start with 1 tablet (5 mg) per day to determine effects.
  • If ineffective and no serious side effects are experienced, increase dosage by 1 tablet (5 mg) each time until an effective dose is reached.
  • The vast majority of patients find 5 to 10 mg effective.
  • Do not exceed 30 mg per day.
  • Do not use other laxatives with Dulcolax.

At smaller doses of 5 to 10 mg Dulcolax is a gentle treatment which, in the majority of users, produces only mild stomach upset, cramps, gas and so forth. Resulting bowel movements are urgent but controllable, and may be watery. Movements may continue throughout the day.

At higher doses, 15 to 30 mg, side effects of cramps, nausea, gas and so forth may be considerably stronger. at 30 mg movements are likely to be extremely urgent and possibly uncontrollable. Urgent, diarrhea-like movements will likely continue throughout the day and possibly into the next. Higher doses of Dulcolax are typically reserved for medical settings when the bowels need to be completely evacuated prior to a medical procedure.

Administration is simple once effects are known:

  • Most patients take 1 or 2 tablets (5 to 10 mg) 30 to 60 minutes prior to bed.
  • Anticipate movements 6 to 12 hours after administration; 8 to 10 hours is most common.
  • Tablets should be taken with a full glass of water; food is optional.
  • Avoid consuming dairy and antacids for 1 hour before and after taking Dulcolax; these products may degrade the tablet's coating, which can cause uncomfortable side effects.
  • Swallow tablets whole; do not chew, crush, split, dissolve or otherwise damage tablet coating.

Some patients prefer to take Dulcolax in the morning rather than bedtime, claiming side effects are less severe and movements are produced much faster, as short as 3 hours after administration.

Warnings & Side Effects

Most of the time constipation is easily treated and nothing to be too concerned about. Unfortunately this is not always the case, and it can be a symptom of a very serious underlying issue. While taking Dulcolax, or any laxative, be alert for warning signs that warrant medical attention:

  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Inability to have a bowel movement after taking laxatives
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Persistent or severe vomiting
  • Persistent or severe dizziness or confusion
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Inability to urinate or significantly reduced urine output

Certain patients are more likely to experience serious side effects, namely those who have a history of:

  • Intestinal blockage
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Appendix problems
  • Unexplained severe abdominal pain

The majority of users are able to use Dulcolax with few or no problems. The most common side effects involve mild gastrointestinal upset, including:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • flatulence

Dulcolax should not be used in patients under 12 years of age without doctor approval, as dosage adjustments may be necessary.


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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.

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