Teens can buy, and get drunk on, homeopathic product sold at CVS


Although CVS stopped selling cigarettes, there’s another product that’s causing some concerns — a type of laxative that’s pretty much just booze.

Shoppers of any age can walk into the homeopathic medicine section of a CVS and pick up a store-brand bottle of ‘constipation relief.’ It may not seem like a big deal, until you find out what’s in it.

The ingredients

The product is 20% ethanol — 40-proof hard liquor — more alcohol by volume than beer or wine, chemist and blogger Yvette “Sci Babe” d’Entremont told Slate.

The product is sold in 1 oz. containers, but with no age requirement, there’s nothing stopping teens from getting their hands on it.

And what about the ‘constipation relief’ part? To show how effective the product is, d’Entremont tested it out. After taking six ounces, she said all it did was get her drunk.

“It doesn’t do what it claims to do and it got me drunk,” said d’Entremont. “I want people to be a little more discerning when they go to pick up a medication because you might end up with something with no medicine and a lot of alcohol in it.”

NBC Los Angeles did its own experiment and confirmed the no age requirement by sending a teen in to a CVS to buy the product — and she had no issues. In response, CVS said, ‘Homeopathic products are regulated by the FDA. The alcohol content in this type of product is not unusual and our products should only be used as directed.’

Homeopathic medicine

According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, homeopathic products are ‘derived from botanical, mineral or biological substances and are classified as either over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicines. In contrast to conventional (allopathic) medicines, homeopathic products are believed to be more clinically useful (i.e., effective) when they are diluted, typically with purified water or an alcohol solution.’

Based on the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 3.3 million Americans spent $2.9 billion on homeopathic treatments in 2007.

Homeopathic remedies are required to meet certain FDA manufacturing guidelines and they can be sold over the counter only for “self-limiting” conditions, things like colds that go away on their own. But even the FDA has acknowledged that policies related to homeopathic products need to be revisited.


“We’ve seen a huge expansion of the market and we’ve also seen some emerging safety and quality issues,” Cynthia Schnedar, director of compliance for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, told Bloomberg.

And when it comes to the quality of these products, one Australian study concluded, ‘there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.’

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