Tylenol and other pain-relieving OTC, over-the-counter, medications contain an analgesic called acetaminophen. It was a major medical breakthrough when it was discovered in 1878. It was not used for pain relief until the 1950s. Since then, drugs like Tylenol and Excedrin have been the go to for pain we feel.
What is the Problem?
Acetaminophen is the most commonly used drug in America. There are more than 600 different types of medicines that use acetaminophen as an ingredient. Acetaminophen is an external analgesic that works as a pain reliever (for mild to moderate pain) and fever reducer. Brands like Tylenol have become so common that any time we feel pain, a headache or a sore shoulder, it is what we immediately reach for.
The problem becomes, do we really understand the effect using this drug so regularly has? It is recommended that no adult ingests over 4,000 milligrams of acetaminophen in a day. That sounds like a lot, but so many different types of medications have acetaminophen in them it may become hard to keep track. We don’t look at Tylenol, and other brands, the way we look at other medications. Sometimes, we don’t even read the warning labels on OTC drugs. There isn’t a doctor telling you that this medication can potentially be harmful.
The Effects on the Body
Acetaminophen works by blocking your brain from releasing certain chemicals that cause the feeling of pain. Acetaminophen is metabolized by the liver. That is where it can do the most damage. Taking too much acetaminophen for extended periods of time can cause severe liver and kidney damage. Acetaminophen is a dangerous drug, although no one thinks of it when they think of dangerous drugs.
You can cause your body severe damage with medications that you can find in almost any household. When acetaminophen is mixed with alcohol the damage can be much worse. Drinking heavily one night and waking up with a hangover- one of the first things people do is grab the Tylenol. It helps with headaches, right? Between the alcohol still processing through your system and the adding in the extra work for your liver, it is the perfect storm for liver and kidney damage.
How to Avoid Hurting your Body
In moderation, there can be little to no side effects from the occasional Tylenol for most people. It should never be taken for more than 10 days in a row. If there is an underlying problem leading to taking acetaminophen often, go see a doctor. Find out what the problem is and treat it accordingly. There are benefits to having a drug like acetaminophen available, however, talk to a doctor about how to properly use it.
There are products with this drug in it made for children. Do not think that these can be given to children to solve most problems. Especially with children, talk to their doctor and find the best route for treatment. This is not the magic drug that people thought it was when it first came out. This is a drug that needs to be taken in moderation. This is a drug that we need to stop thinking can be taken without thinking. It can be harmful and it will cause harm.
It can be easy to treat a headache at home. Sometimes, it can work. But if you are taking OTC medications more often than you should be to treat a headache you are getting often, do not dismiss that. These drugs can sometimes deter people from going to a doctor. Why are you reaching for your Tylenol so much? Find out why and treat it. Pay attention to your body. Pain is a signal that something is off or wrong. Treating it temporally and by yourself can sometimes lead to worsening conditions that you may not have even noticed you had.