Young people are increasingly overdosing on paracetamol because they think if it's bought over the counter it must be safe, new research reveals.
A study of people admitted to Geelong Hospital's emergency department between 2008 and 2013 found the majority of paracetamol overdose victims were women aged 15 to 24.
Deakin University researcher Matthew Dunn told the Public Health Association of Australia conference in Perth that only five per cent of the patients had used paracetamol to attempt suicide, with the remainder taking too much of the drug accidentally.
Triage notes showed some young women who had tried to take their life mentioned bullying on social media as a contributing factor.
But Mr Dunn said on Monday that of the 382 paracetamol cases reviewed, no one died, and 59 per cent of patients went home shortly after being seen by hospital staff.
However, the number of people overdosing had increased slowly over time, peaking during the July to September period.
Mr Dunn said he did not know if making paracetamol a behind-the-counter drug would help prevent young people misusing it.
"If they're young people they're probably not buying it. They're probably using it because it's at home," Mr Dunn said.
He said paracetamol overdoses could happen because of pain or mismanagement.
"People think because it's bought behind the counter or at the supermarket that it must be safe and we know that that's not the case," Mr Dunn said.
"Some people say they just keep taking paracetamol until they achieve pain relief and that can be well over the recommended dose and the dose that could put them into hospital."