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Drug alert over teens' painkiller dare social media craze

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 05/06/2015

Pharmacists across Northern Ireland have been urged to be vigilant when selling painkillers amid reports of a deadly social media craze dubbed the 'paracetamol challenge'
Pharmacists across Northern Ireland have been urged to be vigilant when selling painkillers amid reports of a deadly social media craze dubbed the 'paracetamol challenge'

Pharmacists across Northern Ireland have been urged to be vigilant when selling painkillers amid reports of a deadly social media craze dubbed the 'paracetamol challenge'.

It reportedly involves young people daring each other through Instagram and Facebook to take excessive amounts of paracetamol. One teenager in Ayrshire was hospitalised after taking part.

Although there have been no reported incidents in Northern Ireland, the Health and Social Care Board has issued a letter to community pharmacists stating that they need to be vigilant when selling the drug.

There is little evidence that the dare has spread beyond a few isolated cases, and comments on social media are dominated by people urging young people not to take part. Deirdre Quinn, a pharmacist with the Health and Social Care Board, said paracetamol was a safe and useful drug when taken correctly.

"But when someone takes too much, their body just cannot get rid of it fast enough, and it makes a very harmful chemical instead," she said. "It can take hours before the person looks or feels unwell. Left untreated even for a short time, this can cause irreversible damage that can lead to a slow, painful death.

"I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that all medications, even those bought in your local shop, can be dangerous if not taken correctly. I would particularly stress to parents the importance of keeping all medications in a safe and high place well out of the reach of children."

Last year five people are believed to have died as a result of the game Neknominate, which involved downing an alcoholic drink as fast as possible after being nominated by a friend.

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