In the past 2 days I have been to 3 deliberate Paracetamol overdoses. These people had each taken between 50 and 300 paracetamol tablets. They all were trying to get the attention of somebody; a girlfriend, a husband, a son whoever. I am convinced that not one of these people actually wanted to die. I’m also sure it all seemed like a good idea at the time. Paracetamol is commonly ingested in the mistaken belief that it is a “safe” drug to overdose on. Its readily available, it’s cheap and it doesn’t do any harm. Right? Wrong.
Overdosing on Paracetamol damages your liver. It won’t kill you right away but you can expect several increasingly miserable days before you succumb to its effects. There is a very narrow window of time in which the available treatment for Paracetamol overdose is effective. Unfortunately 2 of the three cases I attended had missed this window by many, many hours and it is now just a case of waiting to see how much liver damage has occurred and whether it is going to be fatal. I really doubt this was what these people had in mind when they reached for the packet.Today I found myself standing at hospital, counting empty blister packs from common household pain relief medications and listening to a distrught teenager hearing the bad news from a doctor about what she had actually done. A big dose of cold, hard reality. You can be sure that argument she had with her boyfriend last night was suddenly seeming pretty trivial.
EDIT: September 2011 - this particular post for some reason is getting a lot of hits from all over the world. Having read a lot of the search terms being used to find this post, I have great concerns that what is written here must give the right message. If you or someone you know is considering harming themselves, pick up the phone, talk to somebody, get some help. Please.