Laxative Abuse: Retailers Need More Educational Resources

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
November/December 2005 Volume 16, Number 6
©2005 Gürze Books

A Great Britain study explored retailers’ services and policies regarding laxatives, and assessed the issue of laxative abuse in the context of eating disorders. As Dr. Rachel Bryant-Waugh reported at the International Conference on Eating Disorders in Montreal, 53 retailers reported stocking an average of 12 laxative products, most of which were senna-based preparations.

Sales practices varied widely; however, most retailers had at least one standard practice in place to limit or to monitor laxative sales. The most common were age restrictions and monitoring the amount of laxatives sold to an individual customer. The most common way retailers detected abuse were frequency of visits and the purchase of large quantities. Most also reported that they could be alerted to abuse by the customer’s physical appearance. Cases of suspected abuse were usually referred to the head pharmacist/store manager and misuse led to restricting sales rather than offering any guidance about abuse.

Staff training was variable and few employees had any information about local support services for individuals found to be abusing laxatives. Most retailers agreed that they have an important role to play in addressing laxative misuse and were willing to work with eating disorders services. However, they also pointed out the need for more information and resources to help them inform, advise, and ultimately help customers suspected of misusing laxatives.

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