Friday, 27 January 2017

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

Dangerous Effects of Paracetamol graphic
Image Credit: modifylifestyle.com

Is Paracetamol dangerous? As we all know, Paracetamol, also known as Acetaminophen or APAP, is a very powerful painkiller (analgesic) used as a medication to treat pain and fever. It is typically used for mild to moderate pain. But what you don't know is taking Paracetamol in excess is 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 in the US and Calpol which is a liquid form for small children.

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It is typically used by mouth but is also available intravenously(directly into a vein) and effects last between two and four hours. Millions of families see the drug as a cheap way to get rid of that annoying headache or body pain 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. Packets of paracetamol are used by millions of people daily to combat a host of common complaints like headaches, back pains and high temperatures.

Dangerous Effects of Paracetamol graphic
Acetaminophen: Image Credittheguardian.com
Enough stories, here are 6 dangerous effects of Paracetamol You probably didn't know:

1. Liver damage: Using paracetamol all the time can potentially cause fatal liver damage. In 2011 the US Food and Drug Administration launched a public education program to help consumers avoid overdose. Acetaminophen can cause serious liver damage if more than is prescribed by the doctor is used. 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 Food and Drug Administration, in the United States, there were 56,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalisations, and 458 deaths per year as a result of acetaminophen-associated 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 hospitalisations, and 25 percent of the deaths. Paracetamol is metabolised by the liver and is hepatotoxic (meaning that it's like poison to your liver); side effects are even multiplied when combined with alcoholic drinks and are very likely in chronic alcoholics or patients with liver damage. Sometimes I wonder why people take alcohol in the first place knowing it has dangerous effects.
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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new warning about 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.

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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 for asthma, should be avoided.
4. Cancer: Some studies have found an association between paracetamol and a slight increase in kidney cancer, but does not affect bladder cancer risk.
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 per cent greater chance of having a stomach ulcer or bleed. Although, Paracetamol is 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: As sad and annoying as the word death is, taking too much paracetamol in pills and cold remedies could kill you. Victims of  Paracetamol overdoses often fail to realise the amount they are taking could be fatal over a few days. According to dailymail, a study shows 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 analysed data from 663 patients who had been admitted to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary between 1992 and 2008 with liver damage caused by paracetamol. They found 161 people with an average age of 40 had taken a staggered overdose, usually to relieve stomach and back pain, headache or a 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.
Dangerous Effects of Paracetamol graphic
Image Credit: consumer-voice.org
There you have it, 6 dangerous effects of Paracetamol you probably didn't know. 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. Sleeping definitely is 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 should do the trick.

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