“Tylenol Is By Far The Most Dangerous Drug Ever Made”
Aric Hausknecht, M.D. July 30, 2017
“Each year a substantial number of Americans experience intentional and unintentional Tylenol (acetaminophen) associated overdoses that can result in serious morbidity and mortality. Acetaminophen-associated overdoses account for about 50,000 emergency room visits and 25,000 hospitalizations yearly. Acetaminophen is the nation’s leading cause of liver failure, according to data from an ongoing study funded by the National Institutes for Health.”
If you take acetaminophen—the active ingredient in Tylenol—you’re certainly not alone. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that millions of Americans take acetaminophen-containing medications every week.
But did you know that this supposedly low-risk drug is implicated in over 110,000 annual injuries and deaths?
The prevalence of Tylenol, its ease of access, and the nonchalance with which it is used (even by doctors) would make you think that medical professionals have established its solid safety profile based on a comprehensive understanding of its mechanisms and risks—but that just isn’t the case.
In fact, we don’t even really know how acetaminophen works. Our understanding is limited to what happens when we take it—and much of what researchers are now uncovering might make you wonder whether the limited pain relief offered by acetaminophen is really worth it.
Let’s take a look at some of the acute risks you’re accepting by taking acetaminophen—even if you take it infrequently and as directed.
Liver damage. Most people are aware of the liver risks associated with acetaminophen—it’s for this reason that ibuprofen is more commonly used (though we’ll explain later why ibuprofen can also be a dangerous choice). A comprehensive study of the subject reports that 50% of overdose-related liver failures and 20% of liver transplants occur because of acetaminophen overdose (either intentional or unintentional).
Experts urge great caution, especially because “the pathophysiology, disease course, and management of acute liver failure secondary to [acetaminophen] toxicity remain to be precisely elucidated.”
Multiple organ damage (and increased mortality risk). Liver toxicity is usually the end of the conversation around acetaminophen’s risks, but in reality, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Researchers are finding that Tylenol and other acetaminophen-containing drugs, even at modest doses, pose serious risks to other organs too.
One systematic review found that those who take Tylenol (even as directed) increase their risk of cardiovascular toxicity, gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney damage, and death (i.e. all-cause mortality).
Mood imbalance. Here’s where it gets even creepier: mounting evidence suggests that acetaminophen adversely affects mood, even at doses well within the recommended “safe” daily range. One study reported that subjects who took 1,000 mg of Tylenol (only one third of the “safe” daily dose) exhibited decreased empathy and other positive emotions, and “blunted evaluation sensitivity to both negative and positive stimuli.”
This worrying side effect is motivating researchers to look deeper into how acetaminophen depletes glutathione, a key compound for regulating detoxification throughout the body and brain. Some experts believe that glutathione depletion could be the key to understanding a wide range of acetaminophen’s dangerous side effects, from mood alteration and depression to organ toxicity.
Prenatal risks. Because of all the risks shared above, it’s highly advisable to avoid acetaminophen during pregnancy. In case you need another reason to seek out pain relief alternatives, though, studies have demonstrated that children exposed to acetaminophen in the womb exhibited dose-dependent issues related to motor function, communication, and behavior.
Some evidence even suggests that prenatal acetaminophen exposure can contribute to the development of childhood disorders like ADHD and autism.
Alternatives for dealing with pain
The current opioid epidemic is proof that Americans are desperately in need of solutions for dealing with pain. While acetaminophen is at least less detrimental than prescription opioid painkillers, the information above should make it clear that it should not be considered safe for frequent and casual use.
Other NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, are marginally less risky, in that they at least seem to have a greater margin of error (meaning that toxicity and side effects tend to begin at a higher dose relative to the minimum effective dose).
That being said, the overall safety record of ibuprofen looks barely any better; studies have strongly linked its use with anemia, miscarriage, DNA damage, hearing loss (especially in men), hypertension, gastrointestinal complications, increased risk of influenza mortality, and even increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
So instead of using these OTC medications of questionable safety, turn to natural anti-inflammatories whenever possible. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory par excellence, and has been shown to provide the same pain reduction and functional improvement as ibuprofen, without any side effects.
And for even more powerful relief, try a complex of turmeric, ginger, and nourishing omega-3s, such as this exceptional pain relief blend offered by PuraTHRIVE.
And remember that your lifestyle choices can make a huge difference when it comes to reducing inflammation and the pain that accompanies it. Dairy products, foods in the nightshade family, processed foods, refined sugars, and gluten can all exacerbate inflammation.
If you find yourself often having to reach for Tylenol because of pain, inflammation, and headaches, try cutting these foods out of your diet and replace them with nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.