Acetaminophen: The Risks You Need To Know About

Pills_NaomiAbel_1Illustrated By Naomi Abel.
When we were kids, our moms used to give us Tylenol for everything. Headaches, muscle pain, stomach troubles, sprains, pulled muscles — you name it. If anything hurt, we popped two of those pills without a second thought.
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Of course, mom paid attention to the label, which warned against exceeding eight tablets in one day. But, it turns out, even the recommended dose of Tylenol may be harmful to our health, at least when used in combination with other painkillers. New FDA warnings highlight the dangers of ingesting too much acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in Tylenol, but which is also present in drugs like Vicodin and Percocet. Taking Tylenol in conjunction with these prescription drugs, a practice which many doctors recommend following a surgical procedure to minimize the use of other, more addictive painkillers, has now been found to carry significant risk of liver damage. Specifically, anything over 325mg of acetaminophen could be dangerous.
While the FDA warning only covers prescription-strength acetaminophen at the moment, there are several reasons to be careful with OTC versions like Tylenol. The NIH cites acetaminophen overdose as "one of the most common poisonings worldwide." It's easy to take more than your body can handle without realizing it, especially if you're taking an Extra Strength formula — each tablet contains 500mg of acetaminophen (the daily limit set by the FDA is 4,000 mg per day). Also, that no-drinking-with-painkillers rule? Yeah, it's not just for Vicodin. Alcohol consumption in conjunction with acetaminophen use (yes, even plain Tylenol) can increase the risk of liver damage. Maybe it's time to lay off the pills? (CNN)
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