30 Oct 2015

Paracetamol overdoses spark call to restrict sales

1:41 pm on 30 October 2015

Paracetamol is potentially dangerous and its sale should be restricted, says a Wellington emergency doctor.

No caption

Photo: 123rf.com

Doctor Paul Quigley and public health advisor Nadia Freeman made the calls in the latest issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal, released earlier this week.

Those under 18 should be banned from buying it, and it should come in smaller packets, he said.

Paracetamol is the most commonly misused or overdosed medicine treated for in New Zealand hospitals.

Over a six-year period, it was by far the most common drug found in overdose treatment at Wellington hospital, accounting for almost 25 percent of cases.

In the six years to the end of 2012, there were 747 incidents, more than twice the amount of the next most common drug.

Most packets of paracetamol contained enough pills to be dangerous, the authors said, and New Zealand should consider restricting the amount that can be bought in one sale.

Dr Quigley said paracetamol was the most toxic medicine available over the counter and should come in smaller packets.

That way it would be harder for those who make a spontaneous decision to overdose to have access to a toxic amount, he said.

An overdose of paracetamol causes a very painful, inflamed liver and severe vomiting.

He did not have concerns about the general use of paracetamol when it is used properly, he said, but wanted to protect those who may try to misuse it at a vulnerable time in their lives.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)

Youth services: (06) 3555 906

Youthline: 0800 376 633

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)

The Word

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

CASPER Suicide Prevention

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs