Taking Acetaminophen

Last summer «U.S. News & World Report» published an article saying that the FDA has recommended lowering the maximum dose of over-the-counter acetaminophen — the key ingredient in Tylenol. But wait… isn’t Tylenol the medication «doctors trust most»? The report found that severe liver damage and even death can result from a «lack of consumer awareness that acetaminophen can cause such injury.»

I never knew the terrible facts about acetaminophen until I worked as a psychiatric nurse and witnessed the tragic results that can come from intentional overdoses of the drug. After seeing the liver damage that occurred in young teenage girls, who often found Tylenol so readily available, I came to understand just how toxic it was.

Prior to that I always felt it was safe, except for the time it was «tampered with» back in the 80’s. It was certainly marketed to be just that.

Acetaminophen is found in more than 200 OTC cold and flu preparations, making it the most widely used painkiller in the US. And it’s also found in prescription pain killers — do a Google search for ingredients for vicodin and percocet, and you’ll find acetaminophen there, too.

The fact is, you can suffer liver damage just from taking Tylenol at the recommended doses, (i.e., 8 extra-strength Tylenol daily for a couple of weeks.) Excessive acetaminophen overloads the liver and causes damage by depleting glutathione, an important antioxidant that protects cells from toxins.

Interestingly enough, the protocol for Tylenol poisoning is the administration of N-acetyl cystine, which is the nutrient for the formation of intracellular glutathione. It is recommended that if you do take acetaminophen on a regular basis, you consider adding the supplement glutathione.

Remember to take care with anything you introduce into your body. All drugs have side effects. Just as with food, seek to understand what is actually in any drug you take. And remember, just because something is purchased without a prescription, it does not mean it is necessarily safe.

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