Monday, November 11, 2013

The Dangers of Acetaminophen

Originally posted on on Nov 3, 2013
by Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

When it comes to proven, over-the-counter solutions for easing pain and controlling a fever, acetaminophen (also called paracetamol, and best known by the brand name, Tylenol) has long been the preferred recommendation for many. It is actually the most widely used product of its kind, and with good reason. When compared to other non-prescription pain relievers and fever reducers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, acetaminophen is considered to be much more safe — especially for young children, people with weak or compromised liver function, or blood-clotting concerns.

The Dangers of Acetaminophen

But, not so fast. Despite being a better choice than some of the alternatives, acetaminophen doesn’t exactly get a free pass. To the contrary, severe health problems such as liver damage and death have been reported, even after “mild” overdose.
  • A 10-fold increase in overdose has been reported in children given injectable paracetamol.
  • In one reported case, an overdose of acetaminophen resulted in death with blistering of the skin and rhabdomyolysis (a breakdown of the muscle fibers) with blood clotting and reduced blood flow to the heart.
  • Overdose in children occurs more quickly with more severe problems than adults.
  • Renal failure has been observed in persons suffering from acetaminophen overdose.
  • One study found that patients taking acetaminophen for dental pain were at a higher risk of suffering accidental poisoning.
  • In 2011, the British Medical Journal reported heavy alcohol consumption, fasting, malnourishment, and the taking of enzyme inducing drugs increased the likelihood of liver damage from acetaminophen use. 
Even the US Department of Health and Human Services, a division of the FDA, warns of dangers of taking Acetaminophen.

Simple Mistakes Can Lead to Complicated Problems

You may be thinking, “Good grief! I thought this stuff was safe!” Well, you’re not alone. There’s a common misconception that, because it’s sold without a prescription, it is also safe to take acetaminophen very regularly to alleviate any and all minor aches and pains. Additionally, the over-the-counter classification has lead some individuals to casually disregard dosage instructions and consume more than directed. If two is great, then four must be better, right? Wrong. Those errors are why hospital emergency rooms deal with more acetaminophen overdoses on an annual basis than they do opiate overdoses.

A good example would be taking acetaminophen to cope with a slight hangover. Not only is this use unnecessary (you likely need hydration, not acetaminophen), but it can further stress an already stressed liver. In fact, this exact scenario accounts for a large percentage of easily avoidable overdoses.

Watch for Hidden Acetaminophen

Another mistake many people make is not reading the labels on the back of over-the-counter products before using them. Use of acetaminophen is prolific among drug manufacturers, and it’s not uncommon to find it included in everything from sleep aids to cold and allergy medications. It’s fairly common for those who are under the weather to take several products at once. These small doses can easily add up, and if you’re not careful, may lead to permanent liver damage.

In addition to keeping an eye out for hidden sources, and minimizing unnecessary use, using a high quality, all-natural liver supplement and performing a periodic comprehensive liver and gallbladder flush, is a great way to promote the health of your liver.

Definition List:
  • over-the-counter: that can be obtained without a prescription (= a written order from a doctor)
  • to ease: to become or to make something less unpleasant, painful, severe, etc.
  • to compromise: a solution to a problem in which two or more things cannot exist together as they are, in which each thing is reduced or changed slightly so that they can exist together
  • alternative: a thing that you can choose to do or have out of two or more possibilities
  • contrary: completely different in nature or direction
  • severe: extremely bad or serious
  • overdose: too much of a drug taken at one time
  • -fold: multiplied by; having the number of parts mentioned
  • fasting: to eat little or no food for a period of time, especially for religious or health reasons
  • malnourishment: in bad health because of a lack of food or a lack of the right type of food
  • misconception: a belief or an idea that is not based on correct information, or that is not understood by people
  • to disregard: to not consider something; to treat something as unimportant
  • opiate: a drug derived from opium. Opiates are used in medicine to reduce severe pain.
  • slight: very small in degree
  • hangover: the headache and sick feeling that you have the day after drinking too much alcohol
  • hydration: to make something absorb water
  • scenario: a description of how things might happen in the future
  • prolific: existing in large numbers
  • "under the weather": you feel slightly ill/sick and not as well as usual
  • flush: to get rid of something with a sudden flow of water
Pronunciation MP3:
= acetaminophen
= ease
= compromise
= alternative
= severe
= overdose
= fold
= malnourished
= misconception
= disregard
= opiate
= slight
= hangover
= hydration
= scenario
= prolific