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Acetaminophen: 6 Dangerous Effects of Paracetamol You Probably Didn’t Know

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When you think about it for a second, most drugs available today have adverse side effects when taken in excess, and painkillers are no exception to this rule. It’s a hot sunny afternoon, you’re going about your day and then you feel that all too familiar pain in your head. You’re wondering why now when there’s still so much work to be done? I don’t know about you but when I come down with splitting headaches, I immediately grab the nearest pack of Paracetamol or Aspirin. In a matter of minutes, it works wonders and I start feeling good again, ready to work myself to death. But for how long?

I’m pretty sure the thought has crossed your mind at some point and you’re right here wondering, could these tablets be harmful to my body? If they are, what are the dangerous effects of Paracetamol on my health? Well, stick around because you’re about to find out.

Wait, Is Paracetamol Dangerous?

Dangerous Effects of Paracetamol

In case you didn’t believe the title of this article, Yes! Paracetamol can be dangerous. However, Paracetamol as a drug is generally safe at recommended doses. Paracetamol is also known as acetaminophen or APAP, and it’s a very powerful painkiller (analgesic) used as a medication to treat pain and fever. It is typically used for mild to moderate pain. What you probably didn’t know is that taking Paracetamol in excess can be very dangerous.

Most people actually confuse the names Panadol and Paracetamol, mistaking them to be two different drugs but they are basically the same thing. Panadol is just a brand name for the drug Paracetamol.Other names for it include Tylenol and Calpol which is a liquid form for small children. Paracetamol is typically taken orally but is also available in forms that can be taken intravenously (directly into a vein) and its effects last for 2 to 4 hours.

Millions of people around the world see the drug as a cheap way to remedy pain especially those pesky headaches and body pains that will not just go away, but research reveals that the dangers of the cheap painkiller have been greatly underestimated. The new study appears to indicate a link between long-term use of the popular medicine and increased risk of conditions like stroke, renal failure, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Dangerous Effects of Paracetamol You Didn’t Know About

Packets of Paracetamol are used by millions of people daily to combat a host of common complaints like headaches, back pains, and high temperatures, so without further ado, here are 6 dangerous effects of Paracetamol no one ever talks about.

1. Liver Damage

Using Paracetamol all the time can possibly cause fatal liver damage. In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration  (FDA) launched a public education program to help consumers avoid an overdose. Acetaminophen can cause serious liver damage if more than the prescribed dose is consumed. The overdose risk may be heightened by frequent consumption of alcohol because most people take the drug to treat headaches that accompany hangovers. Paracetamol toxicity is the main cause of acute liver failure in the Western world and accounts for most drug overdoses in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

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According to the FDA, there were 56,000 emergency room cases, 26,000 hospitalizations, and 458 deaths per year as a result of acetaminophen-related overdoses during the 1990s. Those are really huge figures considering how cheap and easily-abused Paracetamol is. Within these estimates, unintentional acetaminophen overdose accounted for nearly 25 percent of the emergency room visits, 10 percent of the hospitalizations, and 25 percent of the deaths. Paracetamol is metabolized by the liver and is hepatotoxic (meaning it’s toxic to your liver cells). Side effects are even amplified when combined with alcohol and it’s very likely to happen in chronic alcoholics or patients with liver damage. I still wonder why people take alcohol in the first place knowing it has so many unhealthy consequences.

2. Skin Reactions

Professor Philip Conaghan of the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine said, There’s no reason for mass panic but people should be careful when taking it long-term and doctors should consider carefully what other drugs they can recommend to their patients.On August 2, 2013, the FDA issued a warning to the public about the use of Paracetamol. It stated that the drug could cause rare and possibly fatal skin reactions, such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Really big names to worry about don’t you think? Prescription-strength products will be required to carry a warning label about skin reactions, and the FDA has urged manufacturers to do the same with over-the-counter products.

3. Asthma

Though this may sound far-fetched, there is actually an association between Paracetamol use and asthma but the evidence suggests that this likely reflects confounders rather than a causal role. A 2014 review found that among children, the association disappeared when respiratory infections were taken into account. As of 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) continue to recommend Paracetamol for pain and discomfort in children, but some experts have recommended that Paracetamol use by children with asthma, or at risk of asthma, should be avoided. Find out more about the link between asthma and paracetamol usage here.

4. Cancer

Some studies have found an association between Paracetamol and a slight increase in kidney cancer but its consumption does not increase the risks of bladder cancer. There have been changes in the law to stop retailers from selling multiple packs of Paracetamol to a single person. Chemistanddruggist states that it is illegal to sell more than 100 tablets or capsules of paracetamol in a single retail transaction.

Dangerous Effects of Paracetamol

5. Increased Risk of Heart Attack

Daily Paracetamol intake could increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and early death. Recent studies found that patients prescribed high doses of the painkiller for long periods were up to 63 percent more likely to die unexpectedly. The risk of having a heart attack or stroke was up to 68 percent higher and there was an almost 50 percent greater chance of having stomach ulcers or bleeding. Paracetamol is still considered by doctors to be safer than Aspirin which can cause stomach bleeds, and ibuprofen, which has been linked to heart attacks and strokes.

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6. Death

There is only one thing we say to the god of Death: ‘not today’ and certainly not at the hands of inanimate painkillers. Taking too much Paracetamol in pills and cold remedies could kill you. Yeah, bitter truth. Victims of  Paracetamol overdoses often fail to realize the amount they are taking could be fatal over a few days. According to Dailymail, a study shows that the risk of dying from liver failure is higher from accidental overdose than deliberate suicide attempts.

In the study, a team led by Dr. Kenneth Simpson analyzed data from 663 patients who had been admitted to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary between 1992 and 2008 with liver damage caused by Paracetamol. They discovered that 161 people with an average age of 40 had taken an overdose, usually to relieve stomach and back pain, headache, or toothache. Two out of five died from liver failure – a higher fatality rate than recorded for deliberate overdosing. This is because people report feeling unwell to accident and emergency departments without knowing the cause, making it difficult to diagnose and treat in time.

Acetaminophen: 6 Dangerous Effects of Paracetamol You Probably Didn’t Know

That’s it for today. If you made it this far, you’re legendary. It shows you care about your health as much I do and you deserve credit for that. You should probably know that you’re only going to have these problems when you overdose on Paracetamol so next time you’re having a really strong headache especially due to stress, and the thought of popping another pill comes to mind, create a counter-thought and consider having a nap instead.
Sleep is gradually becoming my best remedy for stress-induced headaches or body aches. There are many other remedies for relieving stress, headaches, and body aches. Even a good massage from the right person should do the trick. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, read the article below for a solution.

Read More: Insomnia: Here’s Why You’re Having Trouble Falling Asleep At Night

Thank you for reading this. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments below. It fills me with great joy to see your comments, it really does.

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