Miralax, the common trade name for polyethylene glycol, is available over the counter as a treatment for constipation. It holds water in the bowel, relieving the condition. Some chronic constipation sufferers use Miralax for long periods and in greater doses than recommended, leading to laxative dependence or abuse.
Miralax for Chronic Constipation
Miralax increases the amount of water in the stool, making it easier and more comfortable to pass. Patients using Miralax dissolve the powder in a beverage and then drink it. Miralax is indicated for relief of short-term constipation, and notes that it should not be used for more than two weeks, except under the care of a doctor. Too much Miralax causes diarrhea, dehydration and mineral imbalance.
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may experience more than occasional constipation. In fact, constipation may be a constant way of life. For some IBS sufferers, Miralax helps alleviate pain and discomfort. Other conditions or medications can also cause chronic constipation. Ongoing constipation sufferers wonder about the safety of using Miralax on a long-term basis.
A study reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that Miralax remains safe and effective at treating constipation for up to six months (see Reference 1). In the study, Miralax was compared to a placebo (sugar pill) and found to relieve constipation more effectively. Patients randomly selected in the study took Miralax once daily. The study rated effectiveness as having relieved the constipation symptoms more than half the time. The group who took the Miralax enjoyed symptom relief 52% of the time, compared to only 11% of the time in patients taking the placebo. The patients who used Miralax for six months instead of the placebo experienced side effects of diarrhea, flatulence and nausea, but these were not significantly more pronounced or common than in patients taking the placebo.
Although that study indicates that Miralax can be taken for longer periods than just a couple of weeks, anytime a patient needs to take an over-the-counter drug like Miralax longer than recommended on the label, he should ask his doctor, and make sure his doctor and pharmacist know about all prescription and over-the-counter drugs he takes.