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Can taking Tylenol® for a hangover severely damage your liver?

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The short answer to this question is, “It depends”. The longer answer is, “It depends upon several factors, which include:

  1. Do you already have a damaged liver?
  2. Are you an alcoholic or a binge drinker?
  3. Do you have a genetic issue with regard to your liver and Tylenol’s ingredient, which is acetaminophen?
  4. How many Tylenol do you take in a day for a hangover?"

Parker University did an analysis of a health survey conducted in 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey involving 10,000 patients. The paper was presented on Nov. 4, 2013 to the 141st American Public Health Association national conference. Their analysis focused on people that used acetaminophen for pain incurred after imbibing alcohol. Tylenol® is the most widely sold version of acetaminophen.

“Findings revealed that 2.6% of the 10,000 participants reported using acetaminophen in combination with consumption of low to moderate amounts of alcohol. Of these participants, 1.2% reported kidney dysfunction.

Acetaminophen usage and low to moderate alcohol consumption were not considered as individual risk factors for kidney damage. But together, the researchers found they demonstrated an increased risk of 123%.”

The University of California at Davis has the following comments about mixing alcohol with acetaminophen:

“Chronic alcohol use activates enzymes that transform acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) into chemicals that can cause liver damage, even when the medicine is used in standard amounts.

Severe hepatotoxicity may occur after ingestion of as little as 4 g (8 extra-strength caplets) in 24 hours when combined with alcohol.”

The following information is taken from the Tylenol website, Questions and Answers section:

Interactions -Can a person drink alcohol and take TYLENOL®?

“If a person has 3 or more alcoholic drinks every day while using TYLENOL®, severe liver damage may occur.”

The recent studies indicate that you don’t have to be a regular drinker or take a huge amount of acetaminophen to cause severe liver damage or liver failure.

None of the painkilling drugs are safe in combination with alcohol. Especially damaging or deadly results occur if you drink and take a oxycodone/acetaminophen combination such as Percocet or other drugs that have the effect of being central nervous system (CNS) depressants.

The warnings for Percocet usage that were viewed by the author did not discuss the interaction with alcohol. A lot of people die each year from accidental overdoses when they mix CNS depressants like Percocet with alcohol. The new studies show that mixing alcohol with acetaminophen puts you at serious risk for liver failure.

This is the time of the year for office parties, drinking while watching football bowl games, and New Year’s Eve celebrations. Drink in moderation. If you get a hangover, don’t take any painkillers and drink lots of water.

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