Acetaminophen Causes Liver Damage in as Little as 2 Weeks

We all know acetaminophen causes liver damage. Over a long period of time, though, right? Nothing to worry about if you’re taking it for a brief time… 

Say, for a couple of weeks. No problem…right?


A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association determined that it only takes TWO WEEKS for healthy adults to sustain liver damage from acetaminophen use.

The study involved 106 people taking 4 grams of acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol, Excedrin and other pain killers) a day for two weeks. Four grams is the maximum daily dose recommended by the manufacturer, so we’re not even talking about an "abuse" situation here.

Not one person who received the placebo showed any signs of liver damage. The people taking acetaminophen, however, started having abnormal liver test results—an indication of damage.

The study’s co-author determined that people should not exceed 4 grams of acetaminophen per day. Which has me scratching my head—if taking 4 grams a day caused damage, shouldn’t people avoid getting even CLOSE to that amount? Let alone over it!

The FDA, in one of their rare sensible moments, saw these findings as cause for limiting the maximum daily dose of drugs containing acetaminophen to 3,250 milligrams per day, and for stronger labels warning of liver side effects. Of course, they’re still riding the "increased risk to people who use them improperly" line.

Again, they’re maintaining that position even in the face of damage caused to people who were using the drug according to the label’s instructions!

Who can blame them, though, when they’ve got OTC drug makers breathing down their necks? A statement released by McNeil Consumer Healthcare (the manufacturers of Tylenol) said they fear the FDA recommendations could steer consumers away from an "appropriate and safe drug."

"While we share the FDA’s mutual goal of preventing and decreasing the misuse and overdose of acetaminophen, we have concerns that some of the FDA recommendations could discourage appropriate use and are not necessary to addressing the root causes of acetaminophen overdose," the statement reads.

You know, it’s easy to pay lip service to the "overdose" issue, especially when we’re inundated with the message that we can just pop a little pill and pain will go away. But the fact remains—the subjects in the study weren’t going over the very limits put in place by the FDA. And no amount of spin is going to change that.

Update: Link to the Study on the AMA’s Site.

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Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien writes the e-letter Health eTips for Dr. Wright's Nutrition and Healing.

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  1. Jeffrey Drake says

    If you are going to talk about a study and put your own opinion knee deep into your article, then the least you can do is reference the article.

    You make no statements about the quality of the study, whether or not it was a double blind study.

    So if you would, please stop the hyperbole and provide the real scientific data, not just your opinion — because you just sound like a quack that way.

  2. Anonymous says

    Can you put up a citation to the article you are referring to? I’m having trouble finding it, and all I can find that is similar is a study from 2006. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say what you think it does, though.

  3. Anonymous says

    Wow…nothing like the ‘scare you to death’ websites. Apparently I can’t drink water, take medicine, get out in the sun, use my cell phone, see my doctor or even breath air without the FEAR, huh?

    Live life, have common sense and stay away from articles (read: OPINIONS) like these. Geesh.

  4. Anonymous says

    “a study in the american journal
    of medication” the study was done, and published. What’s wrong with you bone heads, too hard to swallow??? FYI people have known for a while now that tylenol cause damage to he liver.

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