Section V. CATHARTICS
a. Cathartics, agents that promote evacuation of the bowels, are frequently self-
prescribed and misused. The occasions when cathartics are therapeutically useful are
infrequent. However, they are overused due to the misconception that a periodic
cleansing of the bowels is necessary for good health, that a regular frequency of bowel
movements must be maintained, or to a neurotic preoccupation with bowel movements.
b. Catharsis is naturally followed by a period in which there are no bowel
movements. The individual may construe this as an indication that a cathartic is needed
once again. This may lead to the formation of the "cathartic habit," in which the
individual depends upon a cathartic again and again to induce a bowel movement.
c. Constipation occurs more frequently among older people, due in part to
inactivity, dietary factors, and inadequate water intake. However, their attitudes, formed
when "regular bowel habits" were viewed as a key to good health, also play an
2-28. INDICATIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR CATHARTICS
a. Cathartics may be used for specific situations of brief duration. The following
are a few examples of situations in which cathartics may be used:
To relieve constipation caused by the use of opiate drugs.
(2) To soften the stool, thereby reducing irritation of hemorrhoids or
(3) To avoid straining in clients confined to bed for an acute illness such as
To prepare an individual for proctoscopy.
b. Milk cathartics such as the hydrophilic colloids may be useful for bedridden
clients who become constipated because of lack of activity. However, people who are
habitually constipated should generally not be given cathartics. Cathartics are useful for
softening the stool of clients with hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, hernias, or cardiac disease.
Castor oil is useful in treating some clients for poisoning and in preparing others for