Tylenol can cause incredibly toxic side effects

When it comes to medications, many people think of Tylenol as being relatively harmless. Because it’s sold over the counter, even those who would balk at the idea of taking a stronger painkiller, like opiates, usually don’t think twice about popping a Tylenol or two for a migraine. Unfortunately, adopting a blasé attitude toward this drug could come back to haunt you later.

Tylenol’s active ingredient, acetaminophen, is our country’s most common drug ingredient, and it has been linked to more than 110,000 deaths and injuries annually. One out of every four Americans takes a drug containing acetaminophen in any given week, according to the AP, and it can be found in around 600 over-the-counter medicines. While some people are aware of the effects it can have on the liver, the damage this drug can cause actually goes much further.

Liver problems just one of many worries

Its effects on the liver remain its biggest drawback. Last fall, the Canadian government called for stricter warnings on products that contain acetaminophen to draw attention to its liver toxicity. Overdosing on drugs like Tylenol is the top cause of acute liver failure and often results in a person needing a liver transplant. In the U.S. alone, liver failure caused by acetaminophen sends around 60,000 people to the hospital each year. Many of these people took a higher dose than recommended without even realizing it, whether they took hidden sources of it or simply took their next dose too early.

Acetaminophen builds up in your liver over time, spurring drug-induced hepatitis. Making matters worse, it’s often contained in combo drugs like cold medication, so some people don’t realize they are getting acetaminophen from more than one place at one time. The risk is heightened if you regularly drink alcoholic beverages.

Tylenol has also been linked to blood cancer. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that those who took the drug over a long period of time  – four days a week over four years – were two times as likely to have certain types of blood cancer than those who took less of the drug or none at all. Another recent study found that people who took acetaminophen had a higher risk of kidney damage, heart toxicity, gastrointestinal injury and death. Suddenly that headache sounds a lot more tolerable, doesn’t it?

Believe it or not, this drug also has an effect on your mood. A study from The Ohio State University found that taking acetaminophen reduced people’s empathy and moral reasoning. Other studies have shown that it can diminish people’s ability to experience positive emotions. It can even reduce your ability to notice cognitive errors.

It’s a particularly bad idea to turn to Tylenol if you’re pregnant. Children who are exposed to the drug in the womb often grow up to have motor skill problems and behavioral issues. Studies have also linked prenatal exposure to acetaminophen to ADHD-like behavior, and even asthma.

Coping with pain safely

It’s clear that this a drug that you should avoid, so what can you do if you’re in pain and are having trouble coping? This will largely depend on the type of pain that you’re experiencing. Acupuncture can be helpful in certain cases. Some people turn to turmeric, while others swear by ginger. Some people find that meditation helps take their mind off of whatever pain they are experiencing. Meanwhile, yoga’s growing reputation for being an effective way to treat chronic pain has led to the emergence of yoga emergency therapy clinics. There are lots of great ways that you can deal with pain that don’t involve putting your liver – or your life – at risk.

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