Everything we take into our body ultimately ends up in the liver, where it’s filtered and removed from the body. This even includes pain medication. As we get older, we tend to take more over-the-counter pain medications as a means of relieving pain. A common ingredient in painkillers is acetaminophen (most commonly found in Tylenol and over 600 other medications).
Although effective for pain, there is a rise of unintended overdoses of acetaminophen, especially among those with liver disease. Pharmacist Jeffrey Yin explained, “Because it is embedded in so many products, it is easy for people to accidentally double-up on acetaminophen-containing products.” Liquid medications are also another source of unintended overdose because patients often don’t measure the dosages properly.
Individuals without liver disease who don’t drink more than three or more alcoholic beverages a day can safely take 600 to 1,000 mg every four to six hours of acetaminophen without exceeding three grams in a day.
One extra strength Tylenol contains 500 mg of acetaminophen, so two tablets, three times a day takes you to the maximum recommendation. If by chance you mix this with another type of medication which also contains acetaminophen, you put yourself at risk of an overdose. Yin added, “Avoid taking combination products if you don’t have all the symptoms it is intended to treat.”
To avoid further complications from acetaminophen, you should avoid consuming alcohol as this puts added stress on your liver. Even taking herbal remedies along with acetaminophen can lead to dangerous outcomes due to interactions. Always speak to your doctor about what is safe to take along with acetaminophen medications.
Lastly, and this can’t be stressed enough, always follow dosage instructions to avoid complications. Avoid taking these types of medications unless you actually need them. Prolonged use of acetaminophen can be dangerous for your liver and overall health.
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