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Bisacodyl is the generic name (meaning it is not a brand name) for a medication that promotes bowel movements (pooping) by wetting the walls of the intestine that contains the feces (poop). Substances that have this effect are known as laxatives.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Bisacodyl wets the walls of the intestines by changing the transportation of fluids and electrolytes so more of it winds up in the intestines. Electrolytes are chemical substances that are able to conduct electricity after they are melted or dissolved in water. The intestine is a tube shaped structure that is part of the digestive tract.
Bisacodyl also works by helping the muscles of the intestine to contract. This helps move the poop out of the body, and hopefully towards the toilet bowl. Since bisacodyl softens the feces (which is also known as stool), it is known as a stool softener.
WHO TAKES BISACODYL?
Bisacodyl is given to people who are constipated. In other words, they are having difficulty pooping. Many patients on bisacodyl are constipated because they are in bed for a long period of time and are not moving around much. For example, patients who cannot move their legs due to a spinal cord injury often take bisacodyl as part of a regular bowel program. If one does not move around much, the bowels that contain the poop do not get stimulated enough, and they stay in the body for a longer period of time. Another reason that people become constipated is because their poop moves through the intestines too slowly. Bisacodyl speeds this process up.
Before surgeries, patients are sometimes given bisacodyl so the body is cleared of any potential interference with the surgical procedure that can be caused by the poop. Before X-ray images are taken of the body, bisacodyl is often given to remove the poop so it does not interfere with reading the X-ray picture.
There are many drugs that are known to cause constipation as a side effect and bisacodyl is given as a remedy for this problem. Sometimes people with irritable bowel syndrome are give bisacodyl because moving the bowels can reduce pain in the lower abdomen (belly) area, which is a common feature of this syndrome.
WHAT FORMS ARE BISACODYL AVAILABLE IN AND HOW SHOULD IT BE TAKEN?
Although bisacodyl can be given by mouth in tablet and powder form, it is also administered as a suppository, which is a small medicated mass that is shaped to be readily inserted into another bodily opening besides the mouth. When taken by mouth, bisacodyl works within 6 to 12 hours. However, taking it on an empty stomach will allow it to work quicker. Bisacodyl tablets should not be crushed or chewed and should be taken with a full glass of juice or water. Bisacodyl may be taken at bedtime so that it produces its results in the morning.
When taken as a suppository, bisacodyl works within 15 to 60 minutes. Because of this quick action, the suppository form can be given at a time that one wishes to poop. The suppository should be moistened with water or with a lubricant that dissolves in water, prior to being inserted in the body. The suppository should stay in the body for 15 to 30 minutes before it is removed.
HOW IS BISACODYL ABSORBED BY THE BODY?
Bisacodyl is mainly absorbed in the intestines and is minimally absorbed throughout the rest of the body. Metabolites, which are substances produced by chemical reactions in the body, are excreted (discharged from the body as waste) in the breast milk, when females take bisacodyl. Small amounts (15%) of bisacodyl that are absorbed get metabolized (broken down through chemical reactions in the body) by the liver.
WHO SHOULD NOT TAKE BISACODYL?
People with the following conditions should not take Bisacodyl: belly ache, hypersensitivity, blockages, and nasusea or vomiting (especially when linked with fever or severe pain in the belly).
WHO SHOULD BE ESPECIALLY CAREFUL WHEN USING BISACODYL?
Bisacodyl should be used carefully in people with the following conditions: severe heart disease and cracks in the anus or rectum (rear end). People with heart problems should avoid straining during bowel movements. It also should be noted that some people can become dependent on bisacodyl and this should be monitored for as well. Bisacodyl should also be used cautiously with people who are consuming anything containing tannic acid (a substance found in the bark and fruit of various trees), which is an ingredient in some laxatives (such as bisacodyl tannex), because it can be harmful to the liver and can even lead to death. Bisacodyl has been used in pregnant women, but caution should be used here as well.
WHAT ARE SIDE EFFECTS OF BISACODYL?
Side effects of Bisacodyl are as follows: nausea, cramps in the belly, a burning sensation in the rectum (rear end), diarrhea, and a disease or disorder of the intestines. Long term use of bisacodyl can lead to muscle weakness, dependence, imbalance of electrolytes, abnormally low levels of potassium (a very important element for bodily functioning) in the body.
WHAT PRECAUTIONS SHOULD BE TAKEN WITH BISACODYL?
With the exception of patients with spinal cord injuries, bisacodyl should not be used for the long term. To prevent dehydration, people taking bisacodyl should increase fluid intake to between 51 and 68 ounces (a can of soda has 12 ounces). When possible, patients should be encouraged to increase bowel movements by moving around more, eating bulkier foods, and drinking more fluids.
Bisacodyl can react with antacids, removing its protective coating. Removing this coating will reduce bisacodyl's effectiveness and can lead to irritation of the stomach and a part of the small intestine known as the duodenum, which is why it should not be taken within one to two hours of an antacid or milk (which also has antacid properties). Bisacodyl can also decrease the absorption of other drugs administered by mouth because it increases the speed in which these types of drug move through the intestines.
WHAT IS THE USUAL DOSE FOR BISACODYL?
In tablet form, bisacodyl is available in 5 milligram tablets. Between 5 and 15 milligrams are often given to adults in a single day, with a maximum of 30 milligrams a day. Between 5 and 10 milligrams of the tablet form are typically given to children. The rectal suppository form is given to adults in a single dose of 10 milligrams. In children between 2 and 12 years of age, the rectal suppository form is given in a single dose of 5 to 10 milligrams. In children less than age two, the rectal suppository form is given in a single dose of 5 milligrams.
WHAT ELSE IS BISACODYL KNOWN AS?
Bisacodyl has been trademarked (given brand names) by several companies. These names are as follows: Bisac-Evac, Bisaco-Lax, Bisacolax, Carter's Little Pills, Correctol, Dacodyl, Deficol, Dulcagen, Dulcolax, Fleet Laxative, Laxit, and Theralax. The word part, "lax," in some of these names is due to the fact that this medication is a laxative (see 1st paragraph). Bisacodyl can be purchased in your local drug store under one of the previously mentioned trademarked names.
By law, the brand name versions of a generic drug all need to have the same ingredients as the generic version. The only difference between medications with brand names and those without brand names is the price. Bisacodyl was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in October of 1957.
WHY IS IT CALLED BISACODYL?
Finally, here is some information for all of you chemisty fans. The chemical name for bisacodyl is bis (p-acetoxyphenyl)-2-pyridylmethane. By looking at the letters in purple, you can tell how bisacodyl got its name.