Doctor’s Health Warning to Anyone Who Takes Tylenol Regularly

One of the most popular pain relievers Tylenol is present in more than 600 prescriptions and OTC meds. 

Although it’s a relatively safe medication when it’s taken per the dosage instructions, excessive use of this drug has been associated with severe complications, including liver failure. 

Tylenol Explained

Tylenol or acetaminophen is one of the most widely used OTC pain relief meds in the US and globally. Acetaminophen is its active ingredient and also the generic name of the drug.

It’s also commonly present in numerous other meds. This drug was first sold in 1955 as Tylenol Elixir for Children. Today, millions of American adults and children use this medication every week for different ailments like body aches, headaches, colds, and fevers. 

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association notes that around 52 million consumers in the US use products with Tylenol every week. Today, this medication is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary McNeil Laboratories and it generates more than $1 billion per year. 

It’s marketed as a potent painkiller which is safer than NSAIDs like ibuprofen or aspirin that have been linked with bleeding and stomach discomfort. As an analgesic and antipyretic agent, this drug can alleviate pain and decrease fever. 

Tylenol has been recommended for both purposes for more than 50 years. But, unlike aspirin or ibuprofen, Tylenol can’t treat inflammation. It’s therefore more suitable for less intense pain or as a long-term treatment for chronic pain like the one associated with arthritis. 

The American College of Rheumatology recommends Tylenol for arthritis treatment, particularly of the type of arthritis that’s not associated with inflammation like osteoarthritis. 

What Are the Most Common Side Effects of Tylenol?

Tylenol is an OTC and as such, there’s no need for a prescription to buy it. 

Although prescription meds require the inclusion of certain prescribing information like side effects, meds like Tylenol don’t usually contain this information. 

Some of the most common side effects associated with frequent or daily use of acetaminophen are the following ones:

  • Agitation
  • Headaches
  • Constipation 
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting

Severe side effects are rare with acetaminophen if you take it as recommended. And, both adults and children tend to tolerate it well. 

However, in a clinical research trial from 2022, a regular daily intake of four grams of acetaminophen was found to elevate the systolic blood pressure in hypertensive individuals by around five mm/Hg when compared to the placebo group. 

According to the study, the increase in cardiovascular risk questions the actual safety of regular use of acetaminophen. What’s more, Tylenol has been linked with serious complications in the case of overdoses and long-term use such as liver damage and rare, but dangerous skin reactions. 

Moreover, it’s the leading cause of acute liver failure in the US and there are cases when this drug has led to fatalities. Unfortunately, acetaminophen is the cause of more than 100,000 calls to poison centers, around 60,000 emergency room visits, and hundreds of deaths every year in the US.

In England, it’s the leading cause of liver failures that require transplantations. According to Dr. John Brems, professor of surgery and chief of intraabdominal transplantation at Loyola University in Chicago, acetaminophen is a dangerous drug. 

Dr. Brems transplants three to four patients per year and notes that two to three patients don’t make it for the transplantation. Dr. Brems emphasizes that this is the most dangerous OTC drug in the country.

According to Dr. Iain Macintyre, the lead investigator and a consultant in clinical pharmacology and nephrology at NHS Lothian, the study doesn’t refer to short-term use of paracetamol for body pain or headaches or fever which is fine; however, it does point to a newly discovered risk for individuals who’re taking acetaminophen long-term, usually for chronic pain.

Tylenol & Pregnancy 

The FDA reviewed the potential risks of acetaminophen when used during pregnancy. The findings were published in the Drug Safety Communication in 2015. 

The two US studies mentioned indicate that 65 to 70 percent of pregnant women in the US reported the use of acetaminophen in pregnancy. However, a study reported a link between a higher risk of ADHD in children and acetaminophen use in pregnancy. 

Also, women who reported acetaminophen use in pregnancy had a higher likelihood of giving birth to a child with a hyperkinetic disorder diagnosis or a child who will need ADHD meds when compared to the women who didn’t take acetaminophen during pregnancy.

According to the FDA, this study has numerous methodologic limitations so they concluded that the weight of evidence isn’t conclusive regarding the link between acetaminophen use in pregnancy and ADHD in children.