The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Acetaminophen

Many turn to the pain reliever acetaminophen to combat aches and pains. Alcohol drinkers, however, must use caution when taking the popular medication.

What is Acetaminophen

The medication acetaminophen, found in both over the counter and prescription pain relief drugs such as Tylenol, can be a double edged sword and its ingestion should be governed by a high degree of caution, especially when consuming alcoholic beverages. There are minimal health risks associated with taking acetaminophen products, such as Tylenol, when they are administered in accordance with dosage recommendations, which is generally three hundred and twenty five milligrams (325 mg.) However, ingesting acetaminophen medications in conjunction with alcoholic beverages may cause or exacerbate symptoms related to gastrointestinal irritation or acetaminophen toxicity which could result in acute liver failure, coma and death.

Scientific and Medical

It has long been known in scientific and medical circles that long term alcohol abuse can lead to many health problems, many of which are directly related to liver function. When alcoholic beverages are consumed in combination with Tylenol or other acetaminophen medications, the enzyme CYP2E1 can be more rapidly converted to dangerous, toxic chemicals that contribute to liver cell damage, which results in reduced liver function. Individuals who consume alcoholic beverages on a regular basis would be well advised to reduce or eliminate their use of Tylenol and acetaminophen-containing medications altogether. Also, individuals who regularly take over the counter acetaminophen medications should keep their doctor informed as to their intake.

People who Drink

Those who consume alcoholic beverages and take acetaminophen-containing products, such as Tylenol, are at greater risk for medical problems related to liver function such as acute liver failure. Those who consume more than two to three alcoholic beverages per day should avoid consuming excessive quantities of acetaminophen, so as to reduce the risk of the above stated medical problems. Of course, completely eliminating or significantly reducing the amount of alcohol that is regularly consumed may be an even better way to prevent liver damage, especially if pain relief medications that contain acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, are taken with any kind of regularity.

While it may be a common practice for drinkers to ingest over the counter pain relief medications such as Tylenol before, during or after a bout of heavy drinking to avoid or lessen a hangover, this practice can be very dangerous as the metabolism of alcohol can hasten and worsen the liver damaging effects of acetaminophen usage. The liver damage that is associated with long term alcohol abuse in combination with that of excessive, regular use of acetaminophen products can be accelerated and can lead to acute liver failure, coma or death.

Consideration must be given to the fact that alcohol and over the counter pain medications that contain acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, affect everybody differently. Factors such as age, health and other lifestyle factors help dictate the precise role that each of these compounds will play in liver health and function. However, regular, heavy drinkers should be cautioned and made aware of the potential deadly effects of mixing acetaminophen products, such as Tylenol, and alcohol. It is especially critical for those who suffer from chronic medical conditions to exercise caution when consuming alcoholic beverages and taking medications of any kind.

Some people have made the argument that there is no connection between alcohol consumption and ingestion of acetaminophen medications, such as Tylenol, as they pertain to accelerated liver damage and reduced liver function. However, numerous pieces of medical literature and scientific studies support the fact that the combined consumption of alcoholic beverages and acetaminophen products does, in fact, affect liver health and function. The standard recommendation is to consult with a physician prior to beginning on long term use of any medication, even of the over the counter varieties, and to limit the quantity and frequency of alcoholic beverage consumption.