Prescription laxatives available online

If you're constipated and over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives aren't working, talk to our board-certified doctors today about prescription laxatives. Get a new prescription or refill for laxatives from one of our board-certified doctors online.*

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About prescription laxatives

Laxatives are medications designed to help promote an increase in bowel movements. Using a laxative helps soften stools in the gastrointestinal tract, making it easier to move through the digestive system. They’re often prescribed to help treat constipation, but they’re also used for other conditions. There are four types of prescription laxatives. In addition to prescription laxatives, there are also some of these medicines that are available over the counter.

What laxatives treat

The most common condition treated with laxatives is constipation. The drugs are designed to serve as stool softeners, which help with bowel movement. There are different types of these drugs on the market, and they do not all work in the exact same way to help with the patient's bowel movements. Specific lifestyle changes are often advised before the patient uses laxative medications. If over-the-counter options do not provide adequate results, a doctor can give the patient prescription drugs that help with bowel movements.

Occasional constipation generally responds well to over-the-counter options. A prescription laxative can offer a better choice for people with chronic idiopathic constipation or related conditions. Apart from the treatment of both acute and chronic constipation, there are some off-label uses for laxatives too.

Other conditions are also treated with laxatives. If a patient has irritable bowel syndrome, the healthcare provider may provide them with laxative options to help improve bowel movements. In cases where the constipation symptoms are not severe, OTC laxatives may also work for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome or a related condition.

Types of prescription laxatives available

There are four different types of laxatives available. Each of these laxatives works in a specific method to make it easier to pass stools. Some of these are available as over-the-counter laxatives, while others require a prescription provided by healthcare professionals. They include osmotic agents, prokinetic agents, secretagogues, and opioid antagonists.

  • Bulk-forming laxatives

    A bulk-forming laxative focuses on absorbing liquids in the gastrointestinal tract. When the compounds in these laxatives absorb water and other liquids, it becomes a bulkier substance in the digestive system. Taking bulk-forming laxatives makes the process of passing stools easier for the patient. These are common types of laxatives that are often available as over-the-counter medicines.

    Examples of bulk-forming laxatives include:

    • Metamucil (psyllium)

    • FiberCon (polycarbophil)

    • Citrucel (methylcellulose)

  • Stool softener laxatives

    A stool softener is a type of laxative used when they have mild constipation. These laxatives are generally considered suitable preventative measures that people can use regularly. These are not highly effective in treating constipation which is regarded as moderate to severe. There are some cases where certain laxatives, such as stimulant laxative, is used alongside stool softeners. The stool softener serves as a type of lubricant, which makes stool wet and softer. This allows stool to move more effectively throughout the digestive tract.

    Examples of stool softeners include:

    • Docusate

  • Osmotic laxatives

    An osmotic laxative focuses on creating a better balance between the amount of water in the intestine and the lumen. These laxatives contain tiny particles consisting of sugars, fibers, and protein compounds. Combining these small particles helps ensure more water can flow into a specific part of the colon called the lumen. This allows more water to be present for stools to become softer and move more manageable in the gastrointestinal tract. It is standard for doctors to provide an osmotic laxative to patients with chronic constipation. It can also be a preventative option for those at risk of constipation.

    Examples of osmotic laxatives include:

    • Lactulose

    • Polyethylene glycol

    • Sorbitol

    • Magnesium citrate

    • Magnesium hydroxide

  • Stimulant laxatives

    Another type of option that can be used to help individuals with constipation is stimulant laxatives. Most laxatives focus on creating softer stools to promote bowel movement. This particular laxative, however, works a bit differently. Instead of directly affecting stools, this laxative affects the muscles that form part of the gastrointestinal tract. When you take a stimulant laxative, it causes the intestines to experience contractions. This helps push out the stool. Many people turn to these laxatives due to the fast action that they can provide. There are OTC products that contain stimulant ingredients. Sometimes, these stimulants are combined with other stool softeners to facilitate bowel movement further.

    Examples of stimulant laxatives include:

    • Sennosides (Ex-Lax, Senokot, Senexon)

    • Bisacodyl (Feen-A Mint, Correctol, Dulcolax)

How prescription laxatives work

Laxatives function by stimulating the gastrointestinal tract to create contractions, pushing stool downward, or softening stools, making it easier to pass. There are different types of these medications. Each type of laxative has positive and negative factors that one needs to consider. Even though there are different mechanisms by which these laxatives work, the purpose remains the same. Laxatives are available to help assist individuals who experience constipation.

  • Side effects of laxatives

    When taken as prescribed, laxatives are generally well tolerated. However, they can still cause some side effects.

    When looking at the side effects of laxatives, it is crucial to consider that some types may have more adverse events related to them. For example, people who take stimulant laxatives are more likely to experience specific side effects than other drugs.

    The more common side effects of laxatives include:

    In rare cases, laxatives may cause serious side effects. These can include:

    • Weakness or fatigue

    • Skin rashes

    • Faintness

    • Confusion

    • Muscle aches

    • An irregular heartbeat

    Patients should also be on the lookout for allergic reactions. It is possible to experience an allergic reaction when using certain laxatives. This reaction may cause rashes, itchiness, and even swelling of your lips and tongue. Difficulty breathing is also a potential effect of an allergic reaction.

  • Prescription laxative risks

    Laxatives are generally safe, but there are some risks if you have other medical conditions or take certain medications.

    Before you take a prescribed laxative, be sure to tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions or issues:

    • Have a medical history of allergic reactions to laxatives.

    • Have rectal bleeding.

    • It may have a type of blockage in the intestines.

    • Experiencing symptoms associated with appendicitis.

    It is also important for people with kidney diseases, high blood pressure, and diabetes to be wary of certain laxatives.

  • Laxative drug interactions 

    When you begin a new medication, tell your doctor about any other drugs, supplements, or herbs you take.

    It is essential to avoid the use of a stimulant laxative if you use any other drugs that also produce stimulant-like effects on the body. You should also consider avoiding medications like opioid painkillers while you take laxatives. These medications may cause constipation to become worse, which also reduces the overall efficacy that the laxatives may produce.

    Talk to your healthcare provider about other supplements you take for your digestive system. For example, you should not combine fiber supplements with certain laxatives, as this may increase the risk of diarrhea and other side effects.

PlushCare online laxatives ratings and reviews

Our online doctors have treated over 550,000 patients.

Laxatives prescribed online

  • Sennosides








    Magnesium citrate or hydroxide

    Polyethylene glycol

Prescription laxatives FAQs

  • How should I take laxatives?

    It is usually recommended to take a laxative without food. This helps to provide a more rapid effect. It is also essential to ensure you take a laxative with a large glass of water. Hydration is critical in loosening stools and helping promote bowel movements. You should also ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the day, as this can further contribute to improvements in the actions produced by the laxative. Besides hydration, adding more fiber to your diet when you take laxatives can also help to improve the effects.

  • Who shouldn’t take laxatives?

    You should not take a laxative if you have a blockage in your intestines, as this can cause the issue to become worse. It is also important to avoid mixing stimulant laxatives with other stimulants, as this can cause a higher risk of side effects like an irregular heartbeat. You should also not take a laxative without talking to your doctor if you have experienced an allergic reaction to these drugs.

  • How long does it take for laxatives to work?

    It depends on the type of laxative that you decide to use. Some laxatives take a bit longer to work than others. You also have to consider how you take the laxative. Using the laxative on an empty stomach may provide a more rapid effect and help to produce a bowel movement in less time. The average time it takes for a laxative to work ranges from 30 minutes to around three hours.

  • What should I avoid with laxatives?

    Do not use multiple laxatives together unless you discuss them with your healthcare provider. You should also avoid using medications that may cause further constipation when you want to use a laxative to improve your bowel movements.

  • What is a good immediate laxative?

    Most people find that stimulant laxatives offer the fastest method for obtaining relief quickly. There are also options like an enema that can provide more immediate relief, but you should talk to your doctor before using these options. There are cases where a standard oral route of administration offers better results.

  • Do laxatives make you poop immediately?

    Most laxatives take a while before they make you need a bowel movement. Some of the fastest-acting options take around 30 minutes before you will need to poop. Some options act over a more extended period.

  • When should I take a laxative?

    If you experience constipation that lasts for a long time, you should ensure you consider using a laxative. This can help to promote a bowel movement. If you have chronic constipation, you must talk with a doctor about the available prescription options.

  • What is the best laxative to take?

    It depends on the severity of constipation and any underlying conditions. Many people experience fast relief from stimulant laxatives. Stool softeners may provide a safer choice for some people, especially those who experience adverse effects when they use stimulant drugs. It is also important to note that stimulant options are unsuitable for long-term use. If your constipation does not improve, it might be a good idea to look at some alternative laxatives that may offer a longer-term solution for chronic constipation.

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PlushCare content is reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, nutritionists, and other healthcare professionals. Learn more about our editorial standards and meet the medical team. The PlushCare site or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.