Laxative addiction is excessive, habitual use of the drug. A person who continually abuses laxatives is at risk for several serious side effects, including dehydration and damage to internal organs. This includes both using the drug too frequently and feeling the need to use it for all bowel movements. An addiction can often lead to the inability to have a bowel movement without chemical or other artificial stimulation.
People who suffer from laxative addiction will often find they need increasing amounts of the drug in order to have a bowel movement. This increase, coupled with continued use of laxatives, can lead to severe and even permanent muscle damage in the bowel. Another danger of addiction is the loss of fluids, minerals, and other essential elements due to excessive defecation. This can lead to everything from dehydration to malnutrition.
Laxative addiction is common among people with eating disorders. The addiction can be especially dangerous for people whose bodies are already weakened by this condition. It is often used after binge eating with the belief that it will rush the food through the body before the calories can contribute to weight gain. A patient may also crave feeling lighter by any means. There has been no evidence that laxatives have any effect on weight loss.
Other common causes are more focused on the bowel movements themselves. Some people who are addicted to laxatives use the drugs in the belief that they are necessary to have a bowel movement every day. While regular movements are essential to good health, not all people need to have them on a daily basis. Addiction can also arise from overuse due to excessive constipation which can be caused by things such as improper diet, certain medications, and lack of exercise.
In order to completely recover from laxative addiction, it is usually necessary to consult one or even a team of doctors, depending on the severity of the condition. There are two goals in the recovery process: weaning patients off the drug and helping the body to heal from the damage caused by the drug. One important part of healing is to help the body to once again have natural bowel movements. Some things that can help to restore this function include increased fluid intake, high fiber foods, and fiber supplements. Taking a magnesium supplement can also help some patients, though it is advisable to consult a doctor before use.