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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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People’s Pharmacy: Mother found solution for son’s big BM

By Joe Graedon, M.S., and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. My 8-year-old son had encopresis, which caused large bowel movements that clogged the toilet. The doctor had him on MiraLAX twice a day, but the drug caused him to have an accident at school. I felt so bad for him. We had to change schools because he was so embarrassed.

Now he is better and takes two fiber gummies, two probiotics and two vitamins after dinner. He is doing really well.

A. Children as well as adults can suffer from this condition. Symptoms can include constipation, days between bowel movements and abdominal pain. Some people have no symptoms but pass large BMs that clog the toilet.

Some people use magnesium supplements to solve the problem. Although this mineral can counteract constipation, there can be negative consequences from taking too much.

One reader reported this experience: “I thought I should take magnesium for my bowel problem. After three days of swallowing a 300 mg tablet each day, I now say: Don’t do it! Magnesium caused serious loose bowels and watery, explosive bowel movements.”

People differ in their reactions, and some tolerate 300 mg of magnesium daily. But it is worth remembering that even natural remedies can have unpleasant consequences.

Q. I’ve always had problems with insomnia. A few times every week I would get only two or three hours of sleep a night. Four months ago, I was lucky if I slept six hours even one night a week.

My doctor prescribed lorazepam. I take it nightly, and it seems to work most of the time. Nothing else worked: chamomile tea, warm milk or reading to relax.

I told him about my fear of addiction, and he said I should not worry unless I felt the need to take more than one tablet a night. He added that I might need to take these the rest of my life if I want to sleep at night. That worries me. What do you think about taking this medication for a long period of time?

A. Lorazepam (Ativan) is a benzodiazepine, meaning it belongs to a class of anti-anxiety agents like alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium). The official prescribing information states that lorazepam is for “the short-term relief of the symptoms of anxiety” and doesn’t mention insomnia.

The Food and Drug Administration warns about adverse reactions such as depression, dizziness, unsteadiness, confusion and memory problems. Nine out of 10 studies in one review found an increased risk of dementia among long-term benzodiazepine users (Expert Opinion on Drug Safety, May 2015). Not all scientists are convinced that this is a problem, but your concern may have merit.

We are sending you our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep for information about sleeping pills and many other approaches to overcoming insomnia. This recently revised, 16-page downloadable guide is available at

Q. Please let the FDA know that there is a problem with generic mirtazapine. It is not exactly the same as the brand-name antidepressant Remeron.

I was on Remeron for many years without any trouble. I had to switch to the generic because the brand is so expensive.

After two weeks on this drug, I am having a bad response. The consequences are serious for people like me who depend on the drug.

A. Other visitors to our website have also reported problems with mirtazapine (generic Remeron). We suggest that you report this problem to the FDA directly through

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their website: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

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