The days of buying bulk packs of acetaminophen could soon be over after a new report found abuse of the drug on the rise.
About 50 Australians die each year from a paracetamol overdose and the drug regulator is investigating whether current accessibility is appropriate.
An independent report commissioned by the Therapeutic Goods Administration found that teens and young adults had the highest rates of intentional overdoses with the painkillers.
The rates were higher among women in those age groups.
The report found that while hospitalizations and death rates have not increased in recent years, there has been a “regarding increase” in abuse.
While survival rates from paracetamol overdose are generally excellent, this is only possible if treatment is given within six hours of taking it.
Delayed treatment can lead to severe liver injury and sometimes death, and can be complicated by different forms of the drug.
Planned and impulsive overdoses are common, but the report found that the latter were often already using acetaminophen in their homes.
Consumers also tend to buy the larger packs that are more commonly used in overdoses.
Several recommendations from the report are now being considered by the regulator, including reducing the size of packs of paracetamol sold and limiting the number of packs people can buy in one store.
It is also recommended to prohibit people under the age of 18 from buying paracetamol without a prescription.
The report also calls for more communication about the dangers of painkiller abuse.
The regulator has opened a public consultation period until mid-October to determine whether the poisons standard should be amended to reflect the report’s findings.
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyondblue 1300 22 4636
Children’s Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)