Acetaminophen is a popular and common painkiller. So common, in fact, that people often don't read label instructions, assuming that acetaminophen products are safe to consume at will. However, acetaminophen causes very serious and life-threatening liver disease if taken in large doses, and is the leading cause of liver failure in the US (affecting more than twice as many individuals as alcohol-related liver disease). There are also reports that acetaminophen can cause stomach bleeding, can affect a baby's future fertility if taken by a pregnant mother, leads to a higher risk of blood cancer, and can cause kidney damage.
Since the side effects of acetaminophen are more dangerous than most people realize, the drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson has taken an unusual step. They have reduced the recommended daily dose of their popular drug Tylenol, in the hopes that people will reduce their intake of the pain medication and spare themselves the dangerous side effects. From USA Today:
Starting sometime this fall, labels on Extra Strength Tylenol packages will now list the maximum daily dose as six pills, or a total of 3,000 milligrams, down from eight pills a day, or 4,000 milligrams. Beginning next year, McNeil will also reduce the maximum daily dose for its Regular Strength Tylenol and other adult pain relievers containing acetaminophen, the most widely used pain killer in the country.
Besides Tylenol, acetaminophen is the active ingredient in the prescription painkillers Percocet and Vicodin and in some nonprescription pain relievers, including NyQuil and some Sudafed products. It's found in thousands of medicines taken for headaches, fever, sore throats and chronic pain.
But people taking multiple medicines at once don't always realize how much acetaminophen they are ingesting, partly because prescription drug labels often list it under the abbreviation "APAP."
Two years ago, a panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration called for sweeping restrictions to prevent accidental fatal overdoses of acetaminophen.
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It is always important to bear in mind that there are other methods to relieve pain than using drugs. If it is important to you to achieve pain relief without side effects, consider the use of cold packs, hot packs, exercise, analgesic gels, aromatherapy, sleep therapy, physical therapy, and chiropractic adjustments. There are many other pain relief strategies worth trying, and most of them come with few or no side effects.
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Unless otherwise attributed, all content is written by Kyle Johnson, DC, of Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria.
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