Q. Your warning about regular consumption of alcohol and acetaminophen has the potential to misinform your readers about the use of pain relievers by people who drink…When acetaminophen is used as directed it does not pose any increased risk for the occasional, moderate drinker.
A. As a spokesperson for McNeil Consumer Health Care (the manufacturer of Tylenol brand acetaminophen), you should recognize that heavy drinkers are at increased risk of liver damage when they take acetaminophen. The question we answered, to which you are responding, was from a woman whose husband “drinks a lot of wine” and takes Tylenol for headaches.
We shared her concern about liver toxicity. The FDA used to warn, “If you consume 3 or more alcoholic drinks every day, ask your doctor whether you should take acetaminophen or other pain relievers/fever reducers. Acetaminophen may cause liver damage.”
In 2011 the FDA took a much tougher stance. It advised: “not drinking alcohol when taking acetaminophen.”
We think that people have been far too casual about acetaminophen. This pain reliever is found in so many over-the-counter products and prescription pain relievers that it is a bit mind boggling.
It is relatively easy to take an allergy medicine that contains a substantial dose of acetaminophen and then double up with a headache remedy that also contains acetaminophen. Add a glass or two of wine or a couple of beers to the mix and you may be poisoning your liver. Here are some unexpected complications of acetaminophen.
ACETAMINOPHEN SIDE EFFECTS:
- Liver damage/Liver failure
- Allergic reaction (anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening)
- Kidney damage
- High blood pressure
We think it inadvisable to drink alcohol and take Tylenol (acetaminophen). And by the way, aspirin might not be such a good idea either. Alcohol can dissolve away the protective mucous lining in the stomach. Taking a standard dose (two tablets) of aspirin after a night on the town could lead to significant stomach irritation and possibly even an ulcer. Ditto for NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen. You’ve heard the saying about “don’t drink and drive.” We think it also applies to many pain relievers. If you are going to have a couple of alcoholic beverages, we think it would be a good idea to avoid pain relievers or headache remedies.
If you drink alcohol, even just occasionally, we think you need to find other ways to relieve your headaches or arthritis pain. You may want to consider some home remedies or anti-inflammatory foods that are far less likely to damage your stomach or your liver.
You will find lots of safer options in our Guide to Alternative Treatments for Arthritis. Our book, Quick & Hand Home Remedies also has lots of suggestions about safer ways to deal with headaches, fibromyalgia or joint pain. You can find all our books here.