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Top 10 Stomach-Churning Facts And Mishaps About Laxatives

by Adam R. Ramos
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Laxatives are not the ideal topic of discussion around a campfire or the dinner table. Frankly, the mere thought of such a bowel-loosening substance tends to make one gag given the explosively pungent end result.

Nonetheless, certain historical facts are not only intriguing but distastefully entertaining as are the absurd mishaps and nightmares to which people have been subjected.

10 Ingestion And Aspiration

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Denture ingestion or aspiration is surprisingly more common than most people realize. The highest incidences occur among drug abusers, alcoholics, and patients with psychoneurological deficits. Just like a removable denture, fixed dentures can become dislodged and swallowed, leading to a myriad of complications such as perforation, obstruction, necrosis, and penetration of neighboring organs.

Such was the case for a 31-year-old male who had swallowed a fixed one-tooth denture while eating. Following a series of plain abdominal X-rays, it was determined that the tooth had moved from the patient’s stomach to the right iliac fossa, obstructing the ileocecal valve of the intestine.

As one can imagine, this caused a considerable amount of pain, prompting physicians to prepare the patient for a delightful colonoscopy to remove the foreign body. During the preparation, however, the unidentified patient was administered a generous quantity of laxatives. Mind you, nearly 48 hours had passed at this point without the obstruction resolving on its own.

What transpired in the following hours at the Vladimir City Clinical Hospital was nothing short of disgusting. An explosive tidal wave of feces painted the room with such force that the colonoscopy became unnecessary. The ingested denture had been swept out of his colon along with two days worth of stools.[1]

Fortunately, the patient was given a clean bill of health after three days of outpatient care. As for the cleaning staff, that’s another horror story.

9 Failure To Administer Laxatives

Laxative dependence due to constipation is remarkably common among the elderly. Often, the dosage can mean the difference between life and death. For an 84-year-old Tennessee woman with chronic constipation, her monthly regimen entailed 60 doses of laxatives which allowed her to maintain generally good health.

Sadly, that all changed when she moved into an assisted living facility that did not provide nearly enough medication to treat her disorder. Within two months, the woman received only 32 doses of laxatives. The inadequacy clearly added to her constipation, leading to a fecal obstruction.

After more than a week without a bowel movement, the resident’s abdomen began to distend. This prompted nurses to take notice long after her incessant cries fell on deaf ears.

After several failed attempts at administering enemas, her condition worsened. With her abdomen steadily growing larger, she was rushed to the emergency room, where her colon ultimately ruptured. Sepsis soon set in, leading to her death a few days later.

In the end, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the assisted living facility for negligence. A jury awarded the family $5.3 million.[2]

8 Mudslides And Jail Time

During a drug stakeout in 2002, a Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputy witnessed an unscrupulous character lingering in the shadows. Upon approaching the man, the deputy observed Tomas Payano-Roman swallow what appeared to be a plastic bag. Naturally, suspicion arose that the man’s late-night snack was narcotics, evidence that was not going to slip by a dedicated deputy destined to make an arrest.

What occurred next couldn’t be further from what Payano-Roman had expected. Instead of spending the night in a jail cell, the hungry offender was handcuffed to a bed and examined by medical workers who determined that a laxative should be administered.

After being physically forced to drink one cup of liquid laxative, the deputy decided to refill the cup five more times for good measure. What followed was a colossal mudslide into a portable toilet from the suspect, who was strapped to a bed while several onlookers gagged in the background.

Fortunately, the plastic bag was retrieved, leading to Payano-Roman being convicted of heroin possession. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals, however, ruled that the forced ingestion of the laxative amounted to an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.

Nonetheless, the state supreme court disagreed. They said that the laxatives revealed evidence of a crime in addition to reducing any danger to Payano-Roman from the bag rupturing inside his body.[3]

7 Colossal Flatulence

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It’s no secret that Adolf Hitler was an addict who was dependent on a variety of narcotics such as barbiturates, morphine, and amphetamines. While at the top of both his reign and lunacy, he was reported to have been taking as many as 80 different drugs.

In particular, laxatives were a remedy that the madman consistently relied on due to his penchant for opiates and his unconventional diet of watery vegetables, both of which caused interminable constipation. Ironically, one would imagine that laxatives were not an ideal prescription for the fuhrer given his long history of stomach cramps, diarrhea, and chronic flatulence.

In fact, Hitler’s inability to hold in his gas caused him to leave the table after each meal so that he could expel a nauseating gust of Nazi wind. His trusted physician, Dr. Theodor Morell (aka the “Reichsmaster of Injections”) noted in his medical journal that Hitler’s “constipation and colossal flatulence occurred on a scale I have seldom encountered before.”[4]

To ease the concerns of the self-conscious psychopath, Morell prescribed little black tablets called Dr. Kuster’s Anti-Gas pills. After being assured that the tablets were “miracle drugs,” Hitler resorted to taking up to 16 a day.

Due to the floodgates of his buttocks opening and closing on a constant basis, it comes as no surprise that laxatives would be indispensable to keep the lunatic on an even keel. However, the injections of bull semen prescribed by Dr. Morell are questionable.

6 Epic Backfire

Photo credit: BBC

Parents can be extremely strict when it comes to their children’s grades. One mother decided to turn her dismay into vengeance after her daughter received low marks at school. After casting blame on the teacher, Julie Hunt, 43, instructed her daughter and a friend (ages 13 and 14, respectively) to bake laxative-laced biscuits for the woman.[5]

Instead of mixing a few pills into the batter, the girls had the bright idea to use the entire box, ensuring a putrid explosion would occur. When the bowel-loosening treats were ready to serve, the girls placed them on the teacher’s desk with a sweet note: “We made these cookies just for you. Hope you enjoy them.”

Instead of devouring all the biscuits by herself, the thoughtful educator handed them out to the entire class, causing a fragrant backfire of epic proportions. Four children became violently ill while countless others soiled their shorts. Hunt was ultimately arrested and pleaded guilty to a minor assault charge while her devious daughter received a school suspension.

Interestingly enough, laxative pranks at school are more common than one might expect. In 2008, three seniors at a Brooklyn high school caused five educators to become ill, with two seeking medical treatment, due to their homemade, chocolate-iced, laxative Bundt cake. The students, all 17, were suspended, barred from graduation, and arrested on assault charges.

5 Delusions Of Grandeur

Photo credit: The Guardian

David Smith, a 62-year-old fantasist, lived a life of lies and deceit so preposterous that it could rival the sins of “Walter Mitty.” His string of lies carried into his marriage as he told his wife on a daily basis about a new, intriguing aspect of the mystery man she had recently married.

She believed that she had wed a widower whose first wife had been a pregnant professional ballerina when she died. Smith’s allure intensified when he revealed that he was a hero who had been involved in the 1980 SAS raid on the Iranian Embassy. If that wasn’t enough excitement for one evening, the James Bond trickster revealed to his 62-year-old bride that he owned a factory that made secret components for the Ministry of Defense.

To make their honeymoon more romantic, Smith began poisoning his wife with laxatives, leaving her exhausted and bedridden with intermittent fainting spells. Her condition deteriorated to such an extent that physicians believed that she was suffering from a motor neuron disease.

Fortunately, Smith’s web of lies began to unravel after he staged a break-in at their residence. Once police discovered evidence contradicting his claims, a domino effect of unrevealed truths came to light.

In the end, Smith pleaded guilty to culpable and reckless conduct for administering laxatives to his wife over a three-year period. In 2017, he was sentenced to 42 months in prison.[6]

4 Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying

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In 2006, a mentally ill prisoner escaped from Sydney’s Long Bay jail in an elaborate scheme that involved a considerable amount of planning and toilet paper. Convicted felon Robert Cole, 37, had spent three weeks chiseling away at the brick wall in his jail cell with a dull butter knife.

Not to be too reminiscent of The Shawshank Redemption, Cole took his preparation a step further. Knowing that his 56-kilogram (123 lb) frame would not squeeze through the 15-centimeter (6 in) gap between the brickwork and steel bars, Cole managed to shed 14 kilograms (31 lb) with the help of contraband laxatives.

Despite the meticulous preparation for an escape, his planning for the outside world proved too difficult a task. After three days on the run, Cole was arrested while window-shopping in a busy Sydney mall.[7]

Due to the odoriferous, intricate jailbreak, he was immediately shipped to Goulburn jail, where he spent the remainder of the winter in a maximum-security cell. In addition to the charming accommodations, Judge Roger Dive sentenced Cole to an additional non-parole period of one year and nine months in prison.

3 A Devastating Addiction

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In 2012, Claudia La Bella informed her family that she had been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer and had only a few years to live. Throughout the next two years, Claudia’s husband would bring his wife to the hospital for cancer treatments. However, she would never allow him to attend the appointments.

Part of her treatments, Claudia claimed, was using laxative tablets intended to flush the toxins from the chemotherapy out of her system. On June 18, 2014, Claudia was admitted to the hospital. She was extremely underweight and dangerously dehydrated with severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Eleven days later, Claudia died at age 28. At the time of her death, she weighed just 35 kilograms (77 lb) due to complications associated with laxative abuse (taking up to 800 tablets a day). It was not until the coroner’s report that Mr. La Bella learned that his wife had never had cancer. Instead, she was suffering from anorexia and the factitious disorder Munchausen syndrome in which a person repeatedly and deliberately acts as if he has an illness when he is not sick.[8]

Like most drugs, laxatives can become addictive when one develops a tolerance, requiring more of the substance to achieve the desired effect. In addition, laxative abuse associated with anorexia is nothing new.

Claudia’s demise was similar to that of former gold medal ski champion Georgia Willson-Pemberton, who died at 26 of “multiple organ dysfunction caused by laxative abuse.” At the time of her death, the 178-centimeter-tall (5’10”) Georgia weighed just 48 kilograms (105 lbs). After her burial, Georgia’s devastated parents discovered thousands of pills in their daughter’s apartment, compounding their agony at the signs they had missed.

2 Trail Of Breadcrumbs

Photo credit: Charles Willson Peale

In Colonial America, few physicians had formal training. Perhaps it was just as dangerous to consult a physician as opposed to allowing one’s ailment to run its course because sweating, cupping, bleeding, and blistering were common remedies.

As one of the more popular wonder drugs of the era, laxatives were believed to expel from one’s body excess bile or other matters causing illnesses. Renowned physician Dr. Benjamin Rush expressly instructed Lewis and Clark to take his Bilious Pills (aka “thunderbolts” due to their strength and size) if the men began to show signs of illness.[9]

As they lived on an unbalanced, low-fiber diet that was primarily comprised of meat, constipation was commonplace. Over time, they used up the 1,300 pills that were mostly made of mercury, a toxic compound that does not decompose.

Unknown to the adventurous duo and crew, they were depositing the indissoluble element into the earth after every “purge.” Thanks to modern-day technology such as vapor analysis, scientists can map their journey, allowing historians to document their historic trek every step of the way.

1 The Smell Of Victory

Following the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, the severely understrength Scandinavian Peninsula held little resistance against the German invaders. Within two years, Nazi warships entered Norwegian harbors while an airborne invasion loomed above.

As the Norwegian secret army (aka the Milorg) gained strength, operations to obstruct the Nazi war effort became surprisingly entertaining in an odorous manner. Aside from covert sabotage and the gathering of intelligence, the resistance coated condoms destined for German units with itching powder. This caused hundreds of distressed Wehrmacht soldiers to flood hospitals and pray for a cure for their aching genitalia.[10]

The evil genius of the Milorg escalated when the largest shipment of croton oil (the “atomic laxative”) was smuggled into canneries across Norway to replace vegetable oil in sardine tins. Thousands of tons of laxative-tainted sardines made their way onto German U-boats without the slightest problem.

Even the taste of the highly toxic purgative oil was concealed by the horrendous flavor of the fish. This caused thousands of submariners to simultaneously “cleanse” their bowels on their long and uncertain voyage at sea. As for the Norwegians, the odor of sardines in the morning must have smelled like victory.

Adam is just a hubcap trying to hold on in the fast lane.

fact checked by Jamie Frater