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March 2021
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Tylenol Trouble

Acetaminophen Overuse Leads to Liver Failure

Overuse of acetaminophen-based medicines like Tylenol can lead to liver problems.

Overuse of acetaminophen-based medicines like Tylenol can lead to liver problems.

For a pounding headache, millions upon millions of Americans turn to pills like Excedrin, the pill that bills itself as “the headache medicine.”  And for millions of Americans, pills like these do the trick—24 billion doses of acetaminophen medicines sold last year alone is a testament to that fact.

And even though pills like these will continue to be sold by the billions for years on end for headache relief, our livers will suffer as a consequence if bought and consumed as prevalently as they are now.

Did you know that the most common cause of liver failure is the overuse of acetaminophen-based medicines like Tylenol?  That’s right.  It’s not due to excessive alcohol consumption, malnutrition, or diseases like Hepatitis B.  Nope.  Liver failure’s most frequently caused by people popping too many Tylenol.

So it was a long time coming when an FDA panel recommended this week that pharmaceutical companies lower the recommended dosages of acetaminophen found on bottles of Tylenol and the like.  This panel is different from the FDA, so the FDA isn’t recommending lowering the dosage.  Just why the FDA isn’t recommending lowering the dosage is anyone’s guess.

Something else that’s anyone’s guess is whether pharmaceutical companies will take the panel’s advisement into action.  You’d think they would, especially considering that thousands are hospitalized every year because of overuse of over-the-counter medicines like these and that hundreds of people have been given liver transplants due to acetaminophen overuse.

Despite these worrisome warning signs, they appear loath to make any adjustments, as the maker of Tylenol issued a statement recently saying, in part, that “…the safety and efficacy of acetaminophen has been established in over 150 clinical studies” and that it’s the “pain medicine that doctors recommend most.”

That’s all well and good, but what they don’t seem to realize is that acetaminophen is a lot like high fructose corn syrup – it’s everywhere!  So when people are taking one medication that contains acetaminophen for a cold, and then start taking Tylenol for a headache, all that acetaminophen has to go somewhere.  And where does it go?  The liver, where the overconsumption of it can’t be metabolized properly, ultimately leading to the failure of one of our most vital organs.

Some may consider this bad news.  “What will we do for our headaches?” some might wonder.  Well, naturally, there are “natural” solutions to headaches.   And while the alternatives aren’t as plentiful or as prevalent as acetaminophen is in over-the-counter medicines, there’s more than one to choose from.

Some of the most common natural herbs and spices include skullcap, which is really great for stress-related headaches.  Another is curcumin, the herb found in the curry spice turmeric.  The properties of curcumin help to shield the brain’s pain receptors.  One other is capsaicin.  Capsaicin is neither an herb nor a spice, but rather a compound that gives chili peppers their spice.  Capsaicin is good for other pain problems, too, like the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Acetaminophen has been used entirely too much for entirely too long.  Sadly, it took liver failure to bring it to everyone’s attention.  Perhaps now people will do what they should have been doing a long time ago and turn to natural treatments for headache relief.


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