Will Tylenol Kill You?

Fact 1: The most common over-the-counter pain relief medications sold in the United States (such as Tylenol) contain acetaminophen. Fact 2: Acetaminophen is the number one cause of acute liver failure in the United States.


A recent study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland found that you are more likely to die from a “staggered overdose” (taking just a little bit too much for several days or weeks) of Tylenol than a single large overdose. Of course, with any drug you should be careful about the dosage you take. But it is surprisingly easy to take just a little too much of acetaminophen. Many folks with chronic pain will up the dose “just a little bit” to help with a particularly bad day. Another thing that some people may not be aware of is that there are other products besides Tylenol which contain acetaminophen. Vicodin and Percocet are prescription medications that contain acetaminophen as do some other OTC medications such as cold and flu remedies. If you are a multiple med user, you must be aware of which contain acetaminophen to figure the full dosage you are taking.

Other studies have indicated that if you combine acetaminophen with alcohol you greatly increase your chance of liver damage. In fact, most emergency room admissions of possible Tylenol overdose involve combining it with alcohol.

A devious aspect of the dangers of possible overdose is that many users don’t equate the initial overdose symptoms of nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain with the Tylenol they took hours or days before. The Edinburgh study also concluded that getting medical help more than 24 hours after an overdose increased the risk of death or the need for a liver transplant, compared to those who got help sooner.

So let’s be careful out there. More on what you can do to lessen the danger of acetaminophen toxicity and some alternative pain relievers next time………