Paracetamol or acetaminophen is most commonly used pain reliever used in the world. Right from our birth to our old age, paracetamol comes to our aid for relieving pain and reducing fever. The common usage of the drug is further promoted by the fact that it requires no prescription and can be brought at your nearest convenience store along with your groceries. So, before you put paracetamol on your next shopping list, here are a few things you must know.
- Paracetamol is commonly compared to drugs such as Ibuprofen and Aspirin which are called NSAIDs (Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). However, a study has shown that paracetamol has little anti-inflammatory activity and is weaker than ibuprofen in relieving fever. Unlike aspirin though, paracetamol is not anti-thrombotic i.e. it does not stop clotting of blood, which is probably the reason why it is favored over aspirin.
- Paracetamol overdoses are the most common drug overdoses in countries such as US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Overdose of paracetamol causes acute liver failure and even death within a few days. Renal failure is also another side effect that be may due to paracetamol poisoning.
- Paracetamol is metabolized to AM404 that interferes with the activation of pain receptors in our body. Also, like local anesthestics like NovoCaine / Procaine, AM404 also blocks the sodium channels in the body. Both these mechanisms desensitize your body to pain but do not relieve it of pain.
- The exact mechanism of how paracetamol is so effective at reducing body pain is not clearly understood. The main mechanism proposed for its effectiveness its selective ability to inhibit cyclooxygenase or COX. Scientists are still disputing the number of variants of COX present in the human body and which variant, paracetamol is selective to.
- Believed to be safe during pregnancy until recently, Paracetamol has now been shown to a risk-factor for male reproductive disorders in humans and rats during adulthood.
Recently, the FDA has decreased the prescribed dosage concentration for paracetamol/ acetaminophen to 325mg per tablet/capsule to avoid over dosage in adults. So, speak to your family physician for treatment options in case of fever or cold, rather than self-medicating yourself with another round of paracetamol.
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