World's Most Popular OTC Painkiller is Increasingly Causing
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Paracetamol, or acetaminophen, is one of the most popular painkillers in the world, can be used very safely to treat minor aches, pains, and fevers in the short-term.

Even when prescribed by physicians, new research from Switzerland suggests a higher dose of paracetamol makes it easier for people to accidentally poison themselves, and while this doesn't often lead to death (we have an effective antidote), it can cause severe liver damage.

In Switzerland, most over-the-counter (OTC) tablets contain roughly 500 mg of paracetamol. But in 2003, the nation introduced a prescription-only tablet containing 1,000 mg of the drug.

Analysing calls to the Swiss National Poison Centre before and after 2003, researchers were alarmed to find a significant increase in unintentional overdoses from paracetamol, and most of these cases were tied to the 1,000-mg tablet.

"One problem with paracetamol is that it is not effective for all patients or against all forms of pain," explains Andrea Burden, a pharmacoepidemiologist at ETH Zurich.

"If the drug doesn't help to ease someone's symptoms, they may be tempted to increase the dosage without consulting a medical professional. That's the real problem."

Many people don't realise that each pill of paracetamol you swallow adds up in the body. This means taking just a few extra 1,000 milligram tablets can put you at risk of an overdose, easily exceeding the 4,000 recommended milligrams a day for adults.

For that very reason, in 2008, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended limiting an adult dose to two tablets containing 325 mg of acetaminophen, with a boxed warning about how toxic byproducts from the drug can build up in your liver, causing damage or even failure.

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