Warning Tylenol May Kill More Than Pain

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It was shown that distress from social rejection and physical pain comes from the same brain area. This connection might explain the Tylenol (acetaminophen) effects on the brain.

Researches show that besides preventing physical pain, acetaminophen might also be Healthline, and show other neurological influence.

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto shows that the well-known painkiller is able to even impede the brain response related to making errors.

Acetaminophen Might Make It Harder to Recognize Errors

The study involved 60 participants, who were hooked up to EEG (electroencephalogram) while doing a detection task with the fast-moving target. The participants needed to press a Go button when the letter F appeared on a screen, and to refrain from hitting the same button when the letter E appeared. 30 participants, or half of them, received the typical maximum dose of acetaminophen, 1,000 mg, before the beginning of the task, and EEG displayed noticeable changes.

When the participants made errors, both analyzed brain waves, ERN (Error Related Negativity) and Pe (Error Related Positivity) were increased. However, the Pe of those who took acetaminophen was smaller. What this suggests is that acetaminophen impedes the ability of the brain to detect the error, or in other words, to decrease the distress related to errors, so one is less likely to notice them.

The postdoctoral fellow in the Psychology department at the University of Toronto, the Lead author Dan Randles, stated for Forbes that this study was the first one to give compelling proof that acetaminophen does affect feelings of social rejection and physical pain, by decreasing distress related to any type of cognitive conflict, regardless if the source is social, physical, or even abstract.

However, another surprising discovery from the study was that the participants who took the drug also made more errors, which is why the researchers want to further discover if acetaminophen can elevate mind wandering or distraction, thus resulting in increased errors.

Tylenol May Reduce the Feelings of Personal Distress and Social Rejection

Acetaminophen was related to subtle cognitive effects in past research. For example, a 2010 research discovered that the drug lowers the pain of social rejection. People who received acetaminophen on a daily basis for 3 week period, in comparison with those who were taking a placebo, showed decreased neural responses caused by social rejections in the areas of the brain connected to distress resulting from physical and social pain.

A 2013 study by Randles and his team, discovered that acetaminophen caused a modification in the way people made moral decisions, used as a personal distress measure. Acetaminophen has been shown that can even reduce distress related to more abstract concepts. Researchers believe that Tylenol prevents existential unease just as it blocks pain since the neurological process which causes both kinds of distress is similar.

Acetaminophen May Lessen Your Happiness as Well

Not only that the dulling effect of acetaminophen works for negative emotions, but it also works for positive ones. There was research conducted on college students who were given emotional images to look at. Part of them received acetaminophen in 1,000 mg dosage, and the other received a placebo.

The results proved that those who took acetaminophen showed more muted emotional reactions to both, positive and negative photos. The researchers concluded that the drug has an overall blunting effect on emotional and evaluative processing, regardless of positive or negative valence.

The researchers explained that this probably happens because of changes in the brain activity triggered by acetaminophen, such as the activity of serotonin. It lowers the activation of brain regions connected to emotional processing.

There weren’t any tests about other painkillers like ibuprofen and aspirin, but researchers think that they probably have similar emotion-dulling effects.

Acetaminophen Risks the Health of Your Liver

The effects of this drug are starting to be understood, but its risks to other parts of our body are already known. Overdose of acetaminophen is the number one cause for calls throughout Poison Control Centers in U.S. or more exactly for 100,000 cases annually. Moreover, the same poisoning causes half of the U.S. acute liver failure instances.

Furthermore, these overdoses are the cause of 150 deaths per year in America. One of the biggest problems concerning this drug is that the margin between the safe acetaminophen dose and the potentially lethal is extremely small.

Liver damage can be caused by taking 2 extra-strength pills a day for a period of a few weeks, which is 25% more than the daily recommended dose. Past research has also proved that taking a bit more than the dose which is recommended in the period of a few days or weeks, might be actually more risky than a single large overdose.

The risk of serious liver damage or even death associated with acetaminophen elevates in the following situations:

  • If you combine more than one 325 mg (regular strength) acetaminophen with hydrocodone, codeine, or another narcotic analgesic.
  • If in a 24-hour period, you take more than the prescribed dose of a product containing acetaminophen.
  • If you take more than one product that contains acetaminophen, which is why you should pay attention to the list of ingredients in other prescription or over-the-counter drugs you consume at the same time.

Don’t Take Acetaminophen with Alcohol

Consuming alcohol in any amount, while taking a product with acetaminophen increases the risk of kidney dysfunction. This harmful combination was discovered to increase the risk of kidney injury by 123% in comparison with consuming them separately. Another potentially harmful practice that is quite common is treating hangovers with acetaminophen.

Severe Skin Reactions Connected to Acetaminophen

Unknown to many people, acetaminophen might cause 3 severe skin reactions. Two of them are really dangerous and can be even deadly. An alarming fact is that these skin conditions can appear even after a certain period of taking the medication. These reactions include:

  • SJS or Stevens-Johnson Syndrome: The beginning symptoms of this condition remind of those of flu, followed by a red or purple rash that forms blisters and makes your top skin layer slough off. This can result in severe infections, permanent skin damage, damage to internal organs, blindness, and even death.
  • TENS or Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis: The beginning symptoms are the same as the previous skin condition, headache, fever, aches, and cough-all related to flu, followed by a blistering rash. Nails and hair might fall out. And skin may peel away. This condition is often lethal because of infection.
  • AGEP or Acute Generalized Exanthematous Pustulosis: Many pustules occur on the skin usually accompanied by fever. Once the intake of acetaminophen is stopped, AGEP resolves within 2 weeks.

NAC Is an Antidote to Acetaminophen Overdose

NAC or N-acetyl cysteine is included in the standard care in instances of acetaminophen toxicity and functions as an antidote to overdose with acetaminophen. Although we don’t recommend this drug for minor pains and aches, still in some cases such as post-surgical pains, it is necessary. In those situations take it together with NAC.

The liver damage caused by acetaminophen is considered to occur because it can deplete the antioxidant which is secreted by the liver as a reaction to toxic exposure, called glutathione. Keeping the levels of glutathione up might prevent damage from acetaminophen.

NAC is an effective antidote because is the rate-limiting nutrient for the creation of glutathione. The rate of mortality related to acetaminophen overdose has been proven to be practically terminated when NAC is quickly given in acetaminophen toxicity cases. Regardless of whether you take Tylenol in an over-the-counter or prescription form, it is recommended to take NAC simultaneously.

Having a bottle of NAC is a good idea if you keep acetaminophen in your home and you have children, in cases of accidental overdose with acetaminophen. For best results, therapy with NAC should be given within 8 hours of an acute acetaminophen overdose. You should seek medical attention immediately when you notice an overdose, but if you can’t, the following protocol is recommended by WHO (World Health Organization):

Unless there are some contraindications such as persistent vomiting or aspiration, the recommended route for NAC is oral administration in 140mg/kg dose, followed in 4 hours by 70 mg/kg maintenance dose orally given every 4 hours. Although this dosing is advised to be continued for 72 hours, new clinical experience recommends adjusting the therapy duration to the clinical condition of the patient.

Does Acetaminophen Relieve Pain?

Despite that this drug is one of the most widely used painkillers in the world, it was discovered that its effects are rather mild in comparison with a placebo.

However, a systematic review made in 2015 of randomized trials discovered that the drug doesn’t work better than a placebo. 13 studies’ reviews showed that the drug’s effects are ineffective in the treatment of low back pain and very small in cases of osteoarthritis.

Moreover, the use of acetaminophen raises the risk of abnormal liver function by almost 4 times. If you take into consideration all of the risks caused by taking acetaminophen, choosing other forms of pain relievers might be the best option.

Top Natural Acetaminophen Alternatives

Products with acetaminophen are not the only option when it comes to pain relief. For example, an effective method for pain relief are the Insider, which can be used for kids too.

AMIT (The Advanced Muscle Integration Technique) helps in the treatment of muscle pain and injuries, and these exercises are excellent in cases of back pain. Whenever you need to take Tylenol, try to find a natural alternative. The following alternatives are excellent for chronic pain, and they don’t cause any of the health dangers that pain relievers like acetaminophen cause.

  • Astaxanthin: It normally requires higher doses, such as a daily dose of 8mg, but it is an extremely powerful anti-inflammatory and many times is much more efficient than many NSAIDs.
  • Ginger: It possesses potent anti-inflammatory, stomach-settling, and pain-relief properties. It works great soaked in boiled water and consumed as tea, or grated in your favorite vegetable juice.
  • Curcumin: the active ingredient of turmeric which was proven to decrease pain, and inflammation, and to increase the mobility of osteoarthritis patients who took 200 mg of curcumin per day. According to studies, it is able to lower the adverse health effects of Tylenol.
  • Boswellia: A herb with well-known and potent anti-inflammatory effects, which have proved to be efficient in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  • Bromelain: This anti-inflammatory enzyme is contained in pineapples and although you can take it in form of supplements, the best way is to consume it through raw pineapple.
  • Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil functions as a joint lubricant with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It can be found in dairy butter and fish. It can be used topically in cases of ganglion cysts and for mild carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Borage Oils, Black Currant, and Evening Primrose: Their content includes GLA (the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid), beneficial for the treatment of arthritis pain.
  • Cayenne Cream: This spice which is also known as capsaicin cream is found in dried hot peppers. It relieves pain by draining the supply of P substance in the body.
  • Further alternatives to acetaminophen include acupuncture, hot and cold packs, yoga, meditation and even holding hands.


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