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To Sam

My friend is taking laxatives.

Dear Sam

I hope you reply to my letter this time as I don't really know what to do. I am worried about my friend who has been taking laxatives and sleeping pills. They are not prescribed by her doctor. She says she has been taking the sleeping pills to sleep well and the laxatives to lose weight. Her weight is fine! I have persuaded her to stop using the sleeping pills as they can be harmful and she thanked me for that because she didn't know they are harmful so she has stopped using them so far.

However, she says she's addicted to the laxatives and that she has been dieting and feeling weak and sick. Are these laxatives dangerous? She's not meant to be taking them. Is she developing an eating disorder? She always complains about being fat when she isn't. How can I help her?

Please help me Sam

Ask Sam


Hi there,

I’m glad you’ve told me how worried you are about your friend. It’s great that she listened to you when you told her that taking sleeping pills can be harmful, because you were right. Anyone who is having sleep problems should let an adult know, this could be a parent or carer or health professional.

I can hear that you’re still very concerned about your friend’s focus on losing weight. To you, she’s not overweight and looks fine and perhaps it’s frustrating or confusing that she can’t seem to see herself the same way. I can hear that you’re beginning to wonder if she might be developing an eating disorder.

Of course, I’m not qualified to say if your friend has an eating disorder, but several things you’ve told me are concerning. There are very real health risks that go with using laxatives as a way to lose weight. Laxatives are not meant for weight control and are also not meant to be used for long periods of time. The fact your friend has told you she feels addicted to laxatives is worrying. The NHS website has information on the misuse of laxatives and is very clear about the risks. Taking any kinds of regular medication without a doctor knowing simply isn’t a good idea. You also know your friend has been dieting, and sometimes feels weak and sick. If a person is paying attention to what they eat in a healthy way, they shouldn’t be feeling weak and sick. Anyone who is regularly experiencing those symptoms should see a doctor.

It’s great you are being so supportive to your friend, she’s lucky to have you in her life. Epic friends have got some good advice about supporting friends with eating problems that you might find useful. You could also think about asking if your friend would talk to ChildLine herself. You could make sure she knows a conversation with us is confidential and she wouldn’t have to give her name. Our counsellors know a young person struggling with eating problems hasn’t done anything “wrong”, so they’ll never judge.

If your friend keeps putting her health at risk, then it might be time to think about involving an adult that you trust. It’s important to respect your friends’ privacy if they share sensitive information with you, but if someone is unsafe, that telling an adult is the right thing to do.

I also hope you might think of talking to us yourself, either by phone or online. Worrying about a good friend and perhaps being asked to keep certain things secret, can be quite a burden and you deserve as much support as possible too.

Take care,


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