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Can You Take Laxatives and Alcohol?: Learn the Risks and Side Effects

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Mixing laxatives and alcohol can lead to potential risks and side effects, such as dehydration, diarrhea, and dizziness, as well as long-term consequences like seizures and electrolyte imbalance.

In this article:

How Are Laxatives Used?

Laxatives are over-the-counter medications that you can use to treat mild constipation. There are different types of laxatives, and each works in a different way to help relieve constipation.

Laxatives usually come in a powder form mixed and dissolved into a liquid for drinking. Some of the side effects that can occur when taking this medication include:1

  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives

Laxatives do have the potential for misuse. You may use laxatives to lose weight, or you may become dependent on the medicine to produce regular bowel movements.

Bulk Forming Laxatives

These types of laxatives work by increasing the weight of your stool in your body, which then stimulates your bowels to release the stool, relieving your constipation. These laxatives include:2

  • Fybogel (ispaghula husk)
  • Methylcellulose

Osmotic Laxatives

This kind of laxative helps your body retain water in your bowels to soften stool and make it easier to pass. These laxatives include:2

  • Lactulose
  • Macrogol
  • Polyethylene glycol

Stimulant Laxatives

These laxatives stimulate the muscles in your gastrointestinal system that help move stool along in your body. Stimulant laxatives include:2

  • Bisacodyl
  • Senna
  • Sodium picosulfate
  • Cascara Sagradara (herbal supplement found in some laxatives)

Why Do Alcohol and Laxatives Interact?

Alcohol can change how many medications work, and certain drugs can change how you feel the effects of alcohol.3 This is why many medication labels warn against using alcohol while taking medication.

Both alcohol and laxatives are metabolized by the liver. This means they are interfering with one another as your body processes the effects of both substances. Alcohol interacts with our gastrointestinal system in a few ways, including:4

  • Low doses of alcohol have been shown to increase gastric emptying, potentially leading to diarrhea.
  • High doses of alcohol can slow bowel motility leading to constipation.
  • Chronic alcohol use can also lead to stomach pain and diarrhea.

If you are taking laxatives to relieve constipation, mixing it with alcohol could reduce its effectiveness and work against the medicine by causing continued constipation.

Also, some laxative medications contain alcohol, so consuming alcohol along with the laxative may increase your intoxication level, making your side effects from the alcohol more intense.

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What Are the Risks of Mixing Alcohol and Laxatives?

When you mix these two substances, you risk experiencing the negative side effects of both at the same time. There are also risks of laxatives and alcohol interacting negatively with each other.

Short-term effects of mixing alcohol and laxatives may include:5,8

  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Sluggishness/drowsiness
  • Itching/hives
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced motor reflexes
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Mood swings
  • Impaired judgment
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory and attention issues
  • Stupor

Long-term risks of mixing alcohol and laxatives are:5,8

  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Electrolyte imbalance leading to cardiac arrest
  • Respiratory depression leading to coma
  • Seizures
  • Bloody stool/anemia
  • Increased risk of accidents and violence
  • Increased risk of suicidality

Can I Take Miralax After Drinking Alcohol?

Do not take Miralax before or after drinking alcohol. Miralax is an osmotic laxative which means it helps your body retain water in the bowels to soften stool. As mentioned above, you risk experiencing side effects of both alcohol and Miralax if you take them together.

One of the side effects of Miralax is dizziness, which could be exacerbated by alcohol use. You may also experience diarrhea when taking Miralax, leading to dehydration. Alcohol use also dehydrates you and combining the two could have a serious impact on your health.

Signs of severe dehydration include:9

  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Not peeing
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat or breathing
  • Sleepiness, confusion, or irritability

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Laxative Misuse

Laxatives come with a high risk of misuse and physical dependence. The chronic use of laxatives creates something called “reflex constipation,” which leads you to use more laxatives to find relief for constipation when actually you will make it worse.5 This cycle of using more of the medicine to fix a problem that is also caused by the medicine is only exacerbated by adding alcohol to the equation. Alcohol consumption can lead to constipation, which may drive you to use more laxatives and perpetuate the cycle all over again.

Overuse of laxatives could lead to irreparable damage, including:10

  • Tremors
  • Kidney damage
  • Heart attack
  • Urinary tract infections (UTI)
  • Intestinal paralysis
  • Increased risk of colon cancer

Who is at Risk of Severe Side Effects from Alcohol and Laxatives?

Two groups are at greater risk of misusing laxatives. The largest of these groups concerns those struggling with an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Studies show that up to 60% of people with an eating disorder misuse laxatives in their attempts to control their weight.6

The second at-risk group appears to be middle-aged or older individuals who begin using laxatives when constipated but continue to overuse them.

Women appear to be more at risk for mixing alcohol and laxatives than men.7 This is hypothesized to be due to women’s concern about gaining weight from alcohol consumption and therefore using laxatives to control weight gain.

A recent study also found that college students have started mixing alcohol and laxatives as a new trend.7 It appears that some of these students are taking the laxative in an attempt to not gain weight while drinking high caloric alcoholic beverages. Others reported that they liked the effects they experienced when mixing the two substances.

What Should I Do if I Have Mixed Alcohol and Laxatives?

If you are taking laxatives as recommended by a health professional or following the instructions on the label, you will most likely not experience severe side effects from the medicine. If you mix it with alcohol, you should monitor yourself for any adverse symptoms.

Consuming alcohol at any time of day may have negative interactions with your laxative medication, even if you drink at a different time than you take the medicine. It is best to avoid alcohol while taking laxatives to avoid any possible reactions.

If you accidentally mix laxatives and alcohol, be on the lookout for dangerous side effects like shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, tremors, or seizures. If you experience any of these risks, call 911 immediately.

Conversely, if you regularly misuse alcohol and laxatives, you may have alcohol use disorder and a dependence on laxatives. This is known as polysubstance use and often requires professional addiction treatment.

If you are misusing laxatives and/or alcohol, you can call 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers to learn more about available treatment options. Dependence on either or both substances will require medical and mental health professionals as part of your recovery process.


  1. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Polyethylene Glycol 3350. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health.
  2. National Health Service. (2019) Laxatives.
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2014). Harmful Interactions. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health.
  4. Grad S, Abenavoli L, Dumitrascu DL. (2016). The Effect of Alcohol on Gastrointestinal Motility. Reviews on Recent Clinical Trials. 2016;11(3):191-5.
  5. Brown University Health Services. (2017). Laxative Abuse.
  6. Roerig JL, Steffen KJ, Mitchell JE, Zunker C. (2010). Laxative abuse: epidemiology, diagnosis and management. Drugs,70(12):1487-503.
  7. Eisenberg MH, Fitz CC. (2014). “Drunkorexia”: exploring the who and why of a disturbing trend in college students’ eating and drinking behaviors. Journal of American College Health, 62(8):570-7.
  8. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders(5th ed.).
  9. National Health Service. (2019). Dehydration.
  10. Centre for Clinical Interventions. (2018). Laxative Misuse.
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