Health  »  Medicine

A Powerful Remedy For Paracetamol Overdose


By: Nanda Kumar   
Date Added : August 17, 2010 Views : 6135


Are you aware what happens when someone takes an overdose of paracetamol? Paracetamol is a safe painkiller when used as directed by a physician, however, when it is ingested in large amounts it is LETHAL. A lethal dose of paracetmol is probably one of the nastiest types of poisoning around, since it causes liver failure. If an overdose is left too long and liver damage occurs, then the only possible treatment is a liver transplant.



Fortunately however, help is at hand in the emergency room. There is an antidote available to treat a paracetamol overdose. The antidote is a remarkable compound called acetyl cysteine. If an overdose of paracetamol is rapidly treated with acetyl cysteine, then the liver can be saved.



The reason for this is due to the mechanism by which paracetamol is processed by the liver. The paracetamol molecule is broken down into four main metabolites in the liver. Three of these are completely harmless and they account for up to 80% of the by products of metabolism. The remaining 20% is converted to a highly reactive compound known as n-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine, otherwise known as NAPQI for short. Fortunately for your liver, this toxic compound can be rendered harmless using the bodies most abundant cellular antioxidant, glutathione.



This is why small doses of paracetamol are safe, since the liver is able to process the small quantities of NAPQI safely using it's stores of glutathione. However, if too much is taken then large amounts of NAPQI are produced and the livers' stores of glutathione are rapidly used up. Once they are gone, then the free NAPQI causes havoc by damaging proteins and nucleic acids in liver cells, killing them off.



Acetyl cysteine works by providing the body with a readily available source of the raw material needed for the liver to make glutathione. This allows the liver to process the excess NAPQI and prevent damage. Of course, to do this requires very large amounts of acetyl cysteine, which can sometimes cause problems of its own, and is not always effective in all cases. It is, however, reassuring to know that there is treatment out there for those unforunate enough to end up in the ER.



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