paracetamol poisoning

I used to post a bunch of interesting stuff on slightlyodd.com on my old content management system. Sadly, my webhost died and I lost a bunch of articles. However! Thanks to the magic of the internet wayback machine on archive.org, I can repost these articles again! So here we go – the first one on paracetamol poisoning.

paracetamolDuring my hours of productive work today, I noticed an article on smh.com.au about the death of a 33 year-old woman to paracetamol poisoning. I briefly considered how tragic this was but in typical fashion soon began wondering about the medical mechanism of paracetamol poisoning. I’d heard that it’s a particularly gruesome kind of death involving liver failure but wasn’t sure of the details. Off to the net I went!

A tiny bit of background (though you’re probably already quite familiar with paracetamol). Also known as acetaminophen, paracetamol is a condensed name derived from para-acetyl-amino-phenol. It’s an analgesic (painkiller) and antipyretic (used for fever relief). Unlike aspirin or ibuprofen, paracetamol is not an anti-inflammatory drug and is therefore more gentle on the stomach. In therapeutic doses, it is among the safest analgesics in use however the therapeutic dose is quite close to the toxic dose. A typical dose consists of 1 gram, taken no closer than 4 hours apart. Packaging usually recommends against consumption of more than 8 tablets in a 24 hour period.
Continue reading “paracetamol poisoning”