Raise your hand is you’ve ever taken Tylenol.
Chances are, you probably have some in your medicine cabinet and rely on it quite frequently.
In fact, it’s even regularly given to children by their parents and nurses to improve a fever and the common cold.
What you probably don’t know, though, is that that Tylenol’s main ingredient, acetaminophen, is known to cause acute liver failure and liver damage.
What The Label Doesn’t Say
Acetaminophen is also a common ingredient in Excedrin, NyQuil, Theraflu, Vicodin, Percocet and other prescription and non-prescription drugs (1).
Drugs containing acetaminophen are typically used to treat moderate pain caused by headaches, arthritis, toothaches, and menstruation (2).
Even though these drugs seem harmless and are commonly used in households worldwide, their ill effects are well documented. In fact, accidental and intentional acetaminophen-associated overdoses cause 56,000 emergency room visits and 26,000 hospitalizations yearly. With prompt treatment, a patient may leave the hospital with minor liver damage in the best of cases, but around 450 people die at the hand of these drugs each year (3).
Some doctors are now even switching their patients to the highly addictive oxycontin to avoid some of the risks of liver damage associated with long-term use of acetaminophen. As it stands, long-term use of the drug can be even more detrimental than one-time large doses.
A Little Goes a Long Way
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, even using acetaminophen products as directed can cause liver damage. In as little as 2 weeks, Tylenol elevated blood levels of alanine aminotransferase of healthy volunteers by up to 3 times higher than the upper limit of what’s considered normal (4).
ALT is an enzyme produced by your liver as it breaks down proteins. Normally, ALT isn’t present in high levels the blood; it’s only released in the bloodstream when the liver is damaged (5).
The One Thing you Should Never Mix with Tylenol
Because of its ability to cure headaches, Tylenol is often used to treat hangovers.
Some people have the habit of taking one or two Tylenol before going out to prevent a hangover, but this habit could very well cost them their life, or their kidneys.
After analyzing data from over 10,000 people who participated in the 2003-04 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, new research has shown that taking Tylenol with a small amount of alcohol increases the risk of kidney disease by 123% (6).
“Most people take this medication without any input from pharmacists or physicians, and that’s where the public-health concern is,” said lead researcher Harrison Ndetan, an associate professor for research and biostatistics at Parker University in Dallas. “People buy acetaminophen over the counter, and they also are casual alcohol users, and they don’t know that there is a harmful interaction.”
“Alcohol can interfere with the gene that regulates the way the body processes acetaminophen,” explains Ndetan. Tylenol and other drugs are obliged by law to warn users not to mix the drug with alcohol, but this warning is often ignored.
When asked about his interest in the matter, Ndetan explained that he wishes to educate the public. “…it is important for people to receive this message because people will take them despite those warnings,” he said.
How to Heal Your Liver
If you suspect that your loved one may have mixed the two, call a medical professional immediately. If you can, administer activated charcoal immediately to help the body get rid of the ingested drugs.
For long-term users of acetaminophen products, look out for symptoms of liver damage such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, dark urine, dark-colored stools, jaundice, and loss of appetite. These symptoms may take a while to develop but they can hint towards major liver damage or even liver failure (7).
If you’ve been relying on Tylenol and other acetaminophen products for a long time, protect your health by kicking the habit and detoxifying your liver.