Home Lifestyle The scary truth behind the world’s most common drug

The scary truth behind the world’s most common drug

The scary truth behind the world’s most common drug

Contemporary culture rests on what seems to be an irrefutable fact. We live in an age of excess.

We have so much that’s available to us, that it’s hard to decide what we ought not to blindly accept. Oddly, this applies to nothing other than Paracetamol.

University is difficult. Countless articles will claim that our 20s are the hardest time of our lives. But whether or not they’re true, matching academic stresses with a social life will undeniably take a toll on your body.

Headaches, backache, tiredness, exhaustion; over the counter medications are our constant lifesavers.

The handiest one of them all? Paracetamol.

t’s the pill that’s often the easy choice, because unlike aspirin, ibuprofen, or even naproxen it has much fewer side effects with the added benefit that it can be taken safely alongside other medication.

However, the fact that it’s so easily accessible doesn’t mean that we should always use it when we feel a slight illness. Last year The Guardian launched a detailed examination into the drug, its effect and its effectiveness.

As far as potentially dangerous drugs go, the findings on paracetamol were not particularly terrifying.


The study explained that every drug has its own side effects. Paracetamol’s side effects though, are hard to judge. This stems from the starkly different ways in which varying patients responded to it. In some cases, the drug was seen to be little more helpful than a placebo, whereas in others, it seemed to have decisively positive effects.

So why do we buy it so much?

This shouldn’t be anything surprising. There is no one size fits all when looking at human physiology, psychology and temperament. The way that drugs are marketed to us, though, is one that we need to reconsider. And the way we use them without thinking as a miracle cure is important.

We think of pain as something which prevents us doing the things we want to do, and so we reach for something that will cure us.

It is this nuanced approach that The Guardian’s piece called for when speaking of paracetamol and it’s that lack of nuance that makes student use of the drug – like any other – so worrying.

Because of the ease of accessing paracetamol, students are so often quick to self-diagnose themselves and ingest up to (and sometimes more) the recommended limit of the drug. Although it may not cause us undue harm, it’s hard to say if it’s causing us explicit good either.

Many of our university illnesses are better solved by other solutions than drugs. We’d do best to remember that when we treat an immediate ailment with a pill, we are addressing merely the symptom and not the root cause.


Do we just love the stuff?

Oftentimes time the pain we feel is telling us to stop doing something, and not telling us to treat it with something which dulls the symptoms.

Think of the common times that we find ourselves reaching for the paracetamol in our bathrooms.

It’s when we’ve got a dissertation deadline and have been under extreme stress trying to do so much reading. It’s when we’ve spent 24 consecutive hours staring at a computer screen. It’s the morning of the exam when we suddenly feel overwhelmingly nauseous and need something to settle the tension. It’s when life just becomes stressful and it manifests itself with a pain just behind our eyes.

What can we do instead of popping pills?

Paracetamol might provide what seems to be immediate calm, but it’s only a mask.

If our eyes are staring at a computer screen too long, then take a break. If we’ve been working too long, then get some rest. If you’re feeling stressed, then you should meditate (or whatever you need to do to destress).


The solution might seem more of a long term one, but it’s a long term solution that helps our body and our general wellbeing.

Studies on paracetamol, like any other drug, are continuously changing and recalibrating. Each time revealing what seems to be even newer and more ground-breaking information.

In the long run, paracetamol is relatively fine for you but that’s no reason to continue using it incessantly.

As students we can do with as few crutches as possible as we navigate through the stressful terrain of university life.

Taking care of our bodies in a responsible way is the best thing we can do to ensure that the journey through university continues in a relatively healthy way

Our bodies in ten years will thank us for it, even if paracetamol vendors do not.

Holly Smith Editor