Paracetamol is such a commonly used medication many of us forget that this is a drug which can become very addictive and has a high-risk potential. Typically used to treat mild pain, fever, and colds or flu, there are cases where people intentionally take more Paracetamol than the recommended dose, either by accident or as an act of self-harm.

Any kind of drug carries some risk, no matter if it’s readily available to purchase. Paracetamol can cause side effects that impact everyone differently, so it’s important to take care when consuming any drug. The impact that Paracetamol has on everyone can vary depending on:

  • Weight
  • Size
  • General health
  • The amount of Paracetamol that was taken
  • Whether other drugs were consumed at the same time
  • Whether the person if used to taking Paracetamol

Paracetamol’s common side effects include drowsiness, fatigue, and rashes or itching. It’s also possible to see children suffering from low blood sugar, tremors, and feeling hungry or faint after taking Paracetamol. When Paracetamol is consumed excessively over a prolonged period of time, it can cause some detrimental long-term effects such as tiredness, blue tinge to fingers and lips, breathlessness, liver and kidney damage, and anaemia (low red blood cell count).

Why is Paracetamol Addictive?

It’s possible to develop a psychological dependence on Paracetamol, though some controversy surrounds Paracetamol Addiction as some remain in doubt as to whether it’s an addictive substance or not. Known to be safer than opioids, Paracetamol has a lower risk of addiction, tolerance, dependency, and withdrawal; however, when consumed alongside opioids, there’s an increased chance of drug addiction.

Side effects are very common with Paracetamol abuse as the drug has a narrow therapeutic index meaning the correct dosage prescribed to ease the pain is very close to a toxic dose. Because of this, we need to be aware of the exact volume of Paracetamol that’s consumed and the potential dangers that come with it, such as an accidental overdose.

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Signs of Paracetamol Abuse

It can be much more difficult to identify an addiction to prescription medication than to notice an addiction to illicit drugs. You may notice an increase in consumption of Paracetamol, attempts at buying large volumes of Paracetamol or seeking out numerous prescriptions, attempts to hide the actual intake of Paracetamol, or the Paracetamol being consumed in unusual ways such as crushing or snorting rather than the usual way of swallowing a tablet.

Suppose you’re suffering from an addiction to Paracetamol and attempt to stop ‘cold turkey’. In that case, you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms which can begin with terrible headaches and lead to dizziness, nausea, insomnia, and even seizures. Many people overlook the potential risks of Paracetamol abuse; however, the risk of fatal liver damage is a very real possibility. Those suffering from Paracetamol addiction need to seek out professional support immediately.

NHS Vs Private Drug and Alcohol Rehab

It can be an extremely challenging and overwhelming experience when you’re suffering from an addiction. Many people fall into denial about their addiction or simply don’t know who to turn to. You can receive free addiction treatment from the NHS is a key part of having a more positive outlook on recovering from your addiction. The first step is acknowledging your addiction and being prepared to begin your rehabilitation journey.

You can initially speak to your GP, who can refer you to your local drug service, or if you’re uncomfortable with speaking to your GP about this matter, you can approach your free local health service. Seeking out this essential treatment for your addiction is something to feel extremely proud about. Suffering from an addiction isn’t a weakness or something that you should be ashamed of. Taking that step to open up and begin your rehabilitation journey is a very brave action to take.

Once you’ve contacted your chosen treatment centre, whether it’s through the NHS or a private drug and alcohol rehab centre, you’ll likely go through a pre-screening assessment where they’ll review your physical and psychological health before understanding the nature of your addiction in more detail. You’ll then commence your treatment programme, usually with medical drug detox.

In addition to receiving drug addiction treatment from the NHS, various charities and private drug rehab facilities are available to support you. There are significant differences in the treatment programmes provided by free local health services like the NHS and those provided by private rehab facilities. Of course, the service the NHS provides is free, whereas private rehab can be costly.

Time and resources are limited with the NHS, meaning that a personalised treatment service isn’t realistic. Because of this, you’ll receive a generic treatment plan to follow, which you’ll receive as an outpatient, visiting the treatment centre each day to undergo your therapy sessions.

Although private rehab is more expensive than free treatment with the NHS, many more benefits exist. You’ll receive a completely tailored treatment programme with psychological and well-being therapies that will be selected based on your unique needs. You’ll have the ongoing and dedicated support of addiction specialists assigned to guide you every step of the way. You’ll also have the choice to undergo rehab as an inpatient, where you stay overnight at the private drug rehab for the duration of your treatment, or as an outpatient, where you visit the rehab centre each day to receive your treatment.

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, and it depends on the severity of your addiction and on your own personal circumstances. Overall, private inpatient rehab has produced the highest rate of successful long-term recoveries from drug addiction.

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John Gillen - Author - Last updated: December 22, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.

Dr Robert Lutaaya - Clinical Reviewer - Last reviewed: December 21, 2023

MBChB, MSc Psych

Dr Robert Lutaaya qualified in 1995 from Worclaw Medical University as MBChB, and obtained a MSc Psych from the University of Manchester in 2014. Dr Lutaaya has previously worked for the CGL Substance Misuse Service and as an on-call doctor substance misuse Doctor for 17 years before joining Ocean Recovery. Dr Robert Lutaaya is committed to helping those struggling with alcohol and drug addictions.