I did some research on the real effects of Tylenol, it might surprise you. What side effects may result from long-term use/high doses of Acetaminophen? What about your liver and kidneys? Mixing with alcohol is even more dangerous yet how many people mix the two everyday?

What can we do? There are many reasons for headaches, diet, stress, misalignment. If we tackle them one at a time we can get closer to the answer instead of masking it with pain pills that lead to further problems. One of our local doctors in Toronto has some great advice on the perils of painkillers, tylenol toxicity and its Alternatives by Zoltan P. Rona, MD, M.Sc. I added some information from his website below that he suggested as alternatives to Tylenol such as Ginger Root, Boswellia, Bromelain, Curcumin and more. See last article.

By , About.com Guide

Updated November 18, 2006

  • The Facts Of Analgesics (Painkillers)
  • Potential For Liver / Kidney Toxicity

    Despite universal acceptance, references have been reported of potential liver and kidney toxicity. These warning reports should alert all users of Tylenol, particularly those who chronically use maximum doses of the drug, to these serious risk factors. Fortunately, patient awareness and routine liver and kidney profile testing will discover any organ abnormality.


    The American Association of Poison Control Centers shows the following statistics for reported acetaminophen poisonings in 2001:

    • Total reported exposures: 57,516
    • Reported exposures, under the age of 19: 40,774
    • Unintentional overdoses: 35,705
    • Intentional overdoses: 20,002
    • Total treated for the exposure: 24,934
    • Impact on health from the incident: none, 15,029; minor, 6,223; moderate, 3,138; major, 829; fatal: 120

    Information from: http://headaches.about.com/cs/medicationsusage/a/acet_death.htm

    Dangerous Side Effects

    Serious acetaminophen side effects pose a much greater risk than many consumers realize. In some cases, an individual may experience an acetaminophen side effect and attribute it to some other cause. Sadly, some users even suffer liver failure due to acetaminophen use without their ever knowing.

    Some of the more severe acetaminophen side effects include:

    • Acute liver toxicity
    • Allergic reactions including swelling, difficulty breathing, closing of throat, and more
    • Abdominal pain
    • Nausea
    • Unusual bleeding or bruising
    • Death

    Liver Failure, Death, and Acetaminophen

    Acetaminophen becomes a toxin when large amounts are ingested or under other specific conditions. The U.S. Acute Liver Failure Study Group found that acetaminophen poisoning is the leading cause of liver failure in the nation, accounting for approximately half of all cases. Some of these instances of liver failure occur even when following the dosage recommendations printed on the bottle.

    The following conditions can significantly increase the risk of liver failure and death in acetaminophen users:

    • Heavy alcohol use
    • The simultaneous use of more than one medication containing acetaminophen
    • The simultaneous use of another drug that affects the liver

    If you have decreased liver function, hepatitis, AIDS, malnutrition, kidney disease, anorexia nervosa, or drink alcohol on a regular basis, you should not take acetaminophen without first consulting your doctor. Diabetics should note that acetaminophen may alter blood sugar test results.

    Great information from: http://www.onlinelawyersource.com/acetaminophen/side-effects.html

    An article from a local Doctor here is Toronto with advice on what we can do for an alternative to Tylenol:

    The Perils of Painkillers

    Tylenol Toxicity – and its Alternatives

    By Zoltan P. Rona, MD, M.Sc.

    So, you think Tylenol is safe. Most of us have always assumed that Tylenol (acetaminophen) is the safest painkiller on the market.  After all, it is the number one drug used in the world. While it is usually effective for mild to moderate pain, its safety is somewhat of a myth.

    Acetaminophen, the generic name for Tylenol, can be found in over 200 different OTC and prescription medications. It is commonly mixed into migraine, arthritis, cough, sinus and cold remedies.

    According to the U.S. FDA, acetaminophen is considered the most common cause of liver failure, accounting for at least half of the cases in the U.S. yearly.

    Liver toxicity with acetaminophen is more likely when combined with heavy alcohol use, the simultaneous use of other drugs containing acetaminophen, as well as simultaneous use of drugs that affect the liver (e.g. antibiotics, anti-depressants, anti-fungals, seizure medications, the birth control pill, etc.).

    Severe liver damage can occur in adults who use acetaminophen for more than 10 consecutive days at doses of 4000 mg or more per day. That’s the equivalent of eight extra strength Tylenol tablets per day. The liver toxicity dosage is lower in children (90 mg/kg) and in people who already have weakened liver function due to hepatitis, AIDS, anorexia nervosa, cirrhosis, alcoholism or other diseases. The toxic dose of acetaminophen after a single acute ingestion is 150 mg/kg in children or approximately 7000 mg in adults.

    Most recently, researchers have reported that the use of acetaminophen has been linked to higher rates of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as reduced lung function. (American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine May 1, 2005;171:966-971 and Medical News Today May 3, 2005)

    What next? Marketplace Irony

    The anti-stress herb kava kava was taken off the market in 2002 by Health Canada because of four reports of liver toxicity. No deaths were reported. Tylenol causes thousands of cases of liver toxicity and death in Canada each year, yet remains on the market.

    Tobacco and alcohol also kill thousands in Canada each year and they also remain on the market.

    Protecting Your Liver From Tylenol

    If you are one of those unfortunate souls who has seemingly no choice but to take Tylenol for life, you can do a lot to prevent liver toxicity.

    Acetaminophen does its damage to the liver by depleting the body of glutathione. You can offset this drug-induced deficiency by supplementing with NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine), an amino acid that boosts levels of glutathione. In fact, NAC is exactly what hospital emergency rooms use for acute acetaminophen toxicity. NAC is virtually harmless and can be safely taken by most adults at a dose of 1000 mg three times daily. Children under the age of 12 can take roughly half the dose.
    Other liver protective natural remedies include alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle, SAM (S-adenosyl-methionine) and the bioflavonoids rutin, catechin, hesperidin and quercetin.

    Non-toxic Alternatives to Tylenol

    When possible, everything should be done to determine the cause of pain and inflammation instead of suppressing it with a drug. Last time I checked, Tylenol was not the cure for any disease.

    Stress, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies (e.g. vitamin B12, zinc, copper) or toxicities (e.g. mercury, lead, cadmium), food and chemical allergies, as well as body structure imbalances are usually at the bottom of chronic pain conditions. Sometimes a dentist or chiropractor can discover the source of chronic pain. A natural health care provider can usually help sort out the cause or causes for most people.

    Until you get the opportunity to be assessed by a natural health care professional, one or a combination of the following commonly available health food store remedies may be good alternatives to Tylenol for pain control.

    Ginger Root: A very effective traditional anti-inflammatory herb which also has anti-nausea effects.

    Boswellia: Together with bromelain and ginger root, this herb has potent anti-inflammatory and pain relieving benefits in just about any kind of arthritis.

    Bromelain: This pineapple enzyme has long been successfully used as a natural pain and anti-inflammatory remedy; it works best when taken on an empty stomach.

    Curcumin: An extract of the herbs tumeric and cumin, this powerful anti-inflammatory can also protect the liver from damage caused by a long list of viruses, drugs and chemicals. The usual effective dose is 1000 mg three or more times daily.

    Omega-3 Oils (EPA and DHA): Usually found in fish oil but also in hemp, Omega 3s can be anti-inflammatory in doses of 12 grams daily, reducing pain and inflammation in conditions as diverse as migraine headaches and sciatica.

    Other Oils: Evening primrose oil, borage oil and black currant seed oil are all high in the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which has been found helpful in any kind of arthritis and eczema.

    Capsaicin cream: An extract of cayenne pepper that can be applied to painful areas topically. It works to relieve pain by depleting the body’s supply of substance P, a chemical that transmits pain signals.

    D,L-Phenylalanine: An amino acid that boosts the body’s production of its endorphins (opiate-like compounds), thereby producing pain control; the usual effective dose is 1000 mg three or more times daily between meals.

    Dr. Zoltan P. Rona practices Complementary Medicine in Toronto and is the medical editor of “The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing.”  He has also published several Canadian best selling books including “Return to The Joy of Health”. For more of his articles, see  http://www.mydoctor.ca/drzoltanrona


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