- Carolyn Jones’s daughter Sarah was hospitalised after taking 28 laxatives
- Mother-of-five then found 150 packets hidden around their Liverpool home
- Mrs Jones, 45, wants restrictions brought in over the sale of laxatives
- She wants age restrictions and controls on the amount that can be bought
- 16-year-old Sarah has battled anorexia for two years
- Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency polices drug sales
- It has no plans to restrict sales but will put stronger warnings on packets
A mother is campaigning for a ban on selling laxatives to children after her anorexic teenage daughter bought hundreds in order to lose weight.
Carolyn Jones, 45, was horrified when her 16-year-old daughter Sarah collapsed after taking an entire packet of laxatives and had to be rushed to hospital.
The mother-of-five then discovered 150 packets of the pills which Sarah had hidden throughout the family home in Liverpool.
Campain: Carolyn Jones, 45, (left) is campaigning for a ban on selling laxatives to children after her anorexic teenage daughter Sarah (right) bought hundreds in order to lose weight
After learning how easy it had been for her daughter to buy the laxatives without any questions asked, Mrs Jones launched her campaign for restrictions on the sale of the drugs, raising the age at which they can be purchased and the number which can be sold in one go.
‘We found hundreds of packets stashed all over. Anyone of any age can buy as many as they like at any one stage,’ she said.
‘Sarah was going into the local Tesco in her school uniform and buying packets and packets of laxatives without anyone asking any questions… but then they don’t have to.’
Mrs Jones, a pensions administrator, wants laws governing the sale of laxatives to be introduced, bringing them in line with general sales list medicines such as paracetamol, which can only be bought in packs of 16 tablets in shops – although selling them to children is at the discretion of the retailer.
‘It is really quite simple. I want them taken off the shelves or treated in the same way as paracetamol,’ she said.
Cause: Mrs Jones wants restrictions to be placed on the sale of laxatives, raising the age at which they can be purchased and the number which can be sold in one go
‘I know it won’t stop people getting hold of them – like painkilling tablets, you could simply go to shop after shop – but it would make it more difficult.’
Sarah, 16, has struggled with anorexia for the last two years.
The illness came to light after she started to have panic attacks around October 2012. Mrs Jones took her to their doctor who referred her to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services or CAMHS.
‘Sarah took laxatives and was constantly exercising. She would say she was going into town and would walk there and walk back, anything to try to help her lose weight,’ Mrs Jones said.
‘We became aware of the laxatives when she collapsed twice, the second time at home, and it turned out she had taken a whole packet of laxatives – all 28.
‘She was rushed to A&E and then taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Obviously anyone who took 28 laxatives would have stomach cramps and be unwell but when you are already anorexic and dehydrated, it has a more drastic effect.
Teenager: Sarah before she became ill with anorexia. Her mother says they are still fighting her eating disorder as a family but ‘are getting their’
‘We came back home and found more than 150 packets, hidden around the house. At one point we know Sarah bought six packets at once.’
Mrs Jones, who has five children aged between 11 and 22, says Sarah was suffering from depression, the root cause of which has now been identified so that she, her family and the mental health professionals can finally help her to deal with it.
‘Being a teenage girl is difficult enough,’ said Mrs Jones.
‘It took over everyone’s lives in the family and we are still fighting against it, but we are getting there.
‘It isn’t just people with eating disorders this affects.
‘Young girls will eat what they want because they just think they can take laxatives afterwards to control their weight. What they don’t realise is that, eventually, it messes up their system.
‘I get annoyed too when I look at social media. You see WAGs and celebrities who talk about how much they’ve eaten, how “fat” they are and how they are going to have to train so hard now…. and they’re not fat, they’re thin.
‘Young girls are looking up to these people and they need to be aware of who they are influencing.
‘For those with an eating disorder it is more important still that we are all aware. It’s a horrific illness – and it isn’t helped by the ease with which people can get laxatives.’
Mrs Jones has already appeared on BBC’s Watchdog programme – after which the MHRA, The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which governs the control of such medication, changed the warnings on the packets.
However, Mrs Jones says this needs to go further.
‘I’m not so naive to think more action will stop young girls getting hold of laxatives but it will make it more difficult,’ said Mrs Jones, who has set up a Twitter account @laxoffshelves to help raise awareness of her campaign.
‘I want to keep awareness going and the pressure on to try to stop other young girls being able to do what Sarah did.
‘As a mum I know the devastation it can cause them and those around them.’
The sale of drugs is policed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which said it has no plans to restrict laxative sales but it will put stronger warnings on packets.
Medication: The sale of drugs is policed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which said it has no plans to restrict laxative sales but it will put stronger warnings on packets
A MHRA spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Most laxative medicines are used by patients safely and in accordance with the instructions for use on the patient information leaflet (PIL), however we do recognise that some patients misuse or abuse them.
‘Our Patient and Public Engagement Expert Advisory Group (EAG) which reports to the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) has recently reviewed the patient information for non-prescription laxatives and has recommended that stronger warnings should be added emphasising that taking laxatives regularly for a long time is harmful and they do not aid weight loss.
‘We are currently working with companies of stimulant laxative products to introduce these updated warnings which should provide consistency across the range of stimulant laxative products available.’
The Watchdog episode featuring Mrs Jones was made with the help of charity Beat, which provides help and support for people with eating disorders.
Like Mrs Jones, the charity is also calling for restrictions on the sale of laxatives, including a minimum purchase age of 16, a maximum pack size with a suggestion of no more than ten, sales restricted to pharmacies and not sold in general retail outlets and packs not displayed in self service areas but kept behind the sales counter.
‘Beat’s campaign featured on the Watchdog programme had several calls to action which we will continue to pursue,’ said a charity spokesman.
‘Although we were pleased to hear that the MHRA changed the warnings on the pack there is still much more to be done in order to protect those for whom laxative intake can be so dangerous.’
She added: ‘Like Carolyn, Beat is determined to see more changes brought about and asks that the industry takes greater responsibility by listening to the concerns of the many thousands of people affected and act accordingly.’
TAKING LAXATIVES FOR WEIGHT LOSS: THE SERIOUS DANGERS
Laxatives are widely used to treat constipation and are available without a prescription from pharmacies and supermarkets.
However, taking laxatives for weight loss, or in an attempt to cleanse the body, can lead to serious long-term health problems.
Users will lose mostly water and very little fat, with frequent use often leading to dehydration and long-term bowel damage.
Excessive or prolonged use of laxatives can also cause intestinal obstruction (where the bowel becomes blocked by large, dry stools) and unbalanced levels of salts and minerals in your body.
Side effects of taking laxatives include: Stomach cramps, chronic diarrhoea, bloating, nausea, water retention, vomiting, dehydration, weakening and softening of bones, rectal bleeding and electrolyte disorder – which can ultimately lead to an abnormal heart rhythm which can cause cardiac failure and death.
Constant users can also experience chronic constipation and pain, and can be left unable to have bowel movements without the help of laxatives. Overdosing can also lead to gastrointestinal tract damage.
Laxatives should only be taken as per instructions and medical help should be immediately sought of a user experiences bloody bowel movements, rectal bleeding, severe abdominal cramps, dizziness, weakness or unusual fatigue.