A research team led by Associate Professor Grant Sklar from NUS Pharmacy found that paracetamol overdose — both intentional and unintentional — among adults in Singapore occurred predominantly in young people between the ages of 18 and 25. This suggested that existing preventive measures to increase public awareness may not be sufficient. The NUS study was published in Singapore Medical Journal.
While paracetamol is a useful and safe drug to treat a variety of illnesses when used within recommended doses, paracetamol overdose can be harmful and potentially lead to liver damage, liver failure and even death.
The researchers analysed the medical records of 177 adult patients diagnosed with paracetamol overdose and hospitalised at National University Hospital over a three-year period. About 23 per cent of the cases were unintentional overdoses, of which more than half were young people. Many were patients who took more than the labelled dose mistakenly thinking it would better help relieve their ailments. Some patients were also unaware how their ingested doses might be toxic and potentially lethal.
Speaking on the wider implications of this study, Assoc Prof Sklar said, “There is a need for public education about the proper use of paracetamol and the maximum total daily dose, as well as the dangers of overdoses, especially when considering the public’s perceived safety of paracetamol. It is also important to seek medical attention early when paracetamol overdose is first discovered.”
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